Education now more accessible to Mpumalanga children: says Premier Studies also indicate that when children experience hunger it can lead to reduced school attendance

Keeping in tune with the theme of 30 years of an admirable record of committed service delivery across the landscape of Mpumalanga, Premier Mtshweni-Tsipane highlighted statistics that indicate undeniable improvement on the part of the governing party.

The Premier reflected on today’s education levels when compared to the past in a report to the citizens of Mpumalanga.

“There has been a phenomenal growth in access to education in our province with Stats SA General Household Survey findings indicating that the Percentage of 7- to 17-year-olds attending school in Mpumalanga Province is at 98%. The throughput rate has improved from 46 % in 2019 to 72% in 2023,” she said.

However, the Premier emphasised that having more children in the classroom would be useless if they remained hungry. According to numerous international studies, feeling hungry goes beyond just being physically uncomfortable for schoolchildren, but it greatly affects their capacity to learn and succeed in the classroom.

There is a well-documented link between food insecurity and academic performance, as shown by multiple studies. This is based on the fact that the brain relies on a consistent energy supply to function at its best, making it a high-maintenance organ. Insufficient food intake can impact cognitive abilities such as memory, focus, critical thinking, and decision-making.

According to a study published by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information, children facing food insecurity showed a lower Grade Point Average and had more trouble focusing in school.

Studies also continue to indicate that when children experience hunger, it can lead to reduced attendance and participation in school, impacting their learning progress. In addition, feeling hungry can result in low energy levels and tiredness, which may hinder their engagement in classroom conversations and tasks.

This is something Premier Mtshweni-Tsipane agrees with.

“Before 1994, thousands of children from poor families attended classes on an empty stomach, they had to endure travelling long distances to attend school. Today one million children in this province from poor backgrounds enjoy free hot meals served at their respective schools. Approximately
75 000 students are transported to school daily through our scholar transport programme,” she said.

The Premier added that beyond a warm meal at school, girls from poor families were exposed to more trauma due to a lack of safer sanitary towels when on their period.“Prior to 1994, teenage girls from poor backgrounds would miss school due to unaffordable sanitary towels. Today, the ANC-led government has restored the dignity of a girl child. A total of 96,077 girl children in all quantile 1 schools are provided with sanitary towels,” she said.

Mtshweni-Tsipane pointed out that in the past, numerous schoolchildren failed to pursue higher education because of costly university fees and the common practice of relocating to cities for further studies.

“When the ANC was elected to lead the government in 1994, we had no universities. We only had a few technical colleges. Today, Mpumalanga is home to four universities, which are the University of Mpumalanga, the Tshwane University of Technology, the Vaal University of Technology and the University of South Africa. We are also home to two private universities, which are Eduvos and Regenesys.

“In 1994 there were 89 public libraries. Today we have 123 fully equipped public libraries, translating to 34 newly built libraries in townships and rural villages. We are opening the doors of learning to every child who calls Mpumalanga home, as envisaged by the freedom Charter,” said the Premier.

Another challenging problem that the apartheid government showed little interest in was children working on farms, she added.

“Prior to 1994, the future of a farm dweller’s child was determined by the environment of his or her upbringing. A significant number of them were forced to drop out of school before completing their primary education and work on farms with their parents, in most cases getting paid with a bag of mealie meal. Today, the ANC led government has built 6 state of the art boarding schools to restore the dignity and the plight of the farm dwellers’ children and improve the quality of education,” said Mtshweni-Tsipane.

The number of boarding schools built is as follows:

  • Ezakheni boarding school in Mkhondo.
  • Izimbali boarding school in Mkhondo.
  • Emakhazeni boarding school in Emakhazeni.
  • Thaba Chweu boarding school in Thaba Chweu.
  • Shongwe boarding school in Nkomazi and Steve Tshwete boarding school in Steve Tshwete.

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