Media statement: Launch of Equal Education #NoSpaceForUs campaign and release of our research report on overcrowding in Gauteng’s schools #NoSpaceForUs #FixOurSchools

Home | Media statement: Launch of Equal Education #NoSpaceForUs campaign and release of our research report on overcrowding in Gauteng’s schools #NoSpaceForUs #FixOurSchools

27 November 2021

Media statement: Launch of Equal Education #NoSpaceForUs campaign and release of our research report on overcrowding in Gauteng’s schools 

#NoSpaceForUs #FixOurSchools

Today Equal Education (EE) is launching our #NoSpaceForUs campaign on overcrowding in Gauteng’s schools. The campaign is rooted in research that EE conducted, between September 2019 and June 2020, in nine schools in Etwatwa, Ekurhuleni. We collected data on 751 classes, measured and inspected 105 classrooms, and interviewed 51 school community members

Our campaign aims to provide insight into what overcrowding is in a South African context, whether Gauteng schools are overcrowded, and what the causes and effects of overcrowding are. Our research has resulted in a written report, entitled “No Space For Us: Understanding Overcrowding in Gauteng’s Schools”, in which recommendations to lessen current overcrowding and prevent future overcrowding are made.

EE’s Gauteng learner members (Equalisers) have long spoken of the significant challenge that overcrowding in schools has on their ability to learn and on the ability of teachers to teach. 

Official data on the National Education Infrastructure Management System (NEIMS and Education Management Information System (EMIS) shows that of the nine Etwatwa schools that were part of our research, none had classes with too many learners, the average teacher-learner ratio was 30:1, only 35% of teachers were overworked, and only five of the nine schools had a classroom shortage. 

However, our findings show a very different reality.

  • All of the nine schools we researched had some classes with too many learners. 
  • 74% of classes (557 of 751) that we inspected had over 40 learners.
  • Seven out of the nine schools had at least 15% more learners than the building was designed to hold. 
  • 66% of the classroom buildings that we measured were too small for the number of learners that they held.
  • 82% of the classrooms buildings we inspected had too little furniture for the number of learners inside them. 
  • 65% of the teachers we interviewed were overworked.

The huge difference between what is actually happening in schools and what government’s data says is because the measurements used by the Department of Basic Education (DBE)  and the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) to measure overcrowding in schools do not work. First, these measurements only look at classroom buildings, learner numbers and teachers without considering other important factors like school building capacity, teacher workload and other school infrastructure. Secondly, they measure school resources using a school-wide average, like the learner-teacher ratio and the learner-classroom ratio, which tells us nothing about what individual classes look like. For example, a school-wide learner-teacher ratio will tell us nothing about what actual class sizes are because a) all teachers are not teaching all the time, and b) learners split up unevenly and even unpopular subjects need a teacher. 

A combination of inadequate monitoring and measurement of overcrowding in schools, inequitable distribution of school resources and an inability for schools to adapt to an increase in learner numbers in the way that they think is best, without losing school resources, means that overcrowding in Gauteng schools is common.

Our report unpacks each of these elements and highlights the dangers of leaving overcrowding in schools unchecked. It also provides four key recommendations, namely:

  • The GDE must create a school infrastructure development plan that puts an end to current overcrowding and prevents future overcrowding, by preparing for growth in the number of learners;
  • The GDE must spend its budget in a way that prioritises fixing overcrowding;
  • The DBE must develop school capacity norms that limit the number of learners a school can enrol and that the GDE is forced to stick to; and  
  • The GDE must place teachers and support staff in schools where they are needed most.

Our Gauteng overcrowding campaign forms part of our national school infrastructure campaign. This Monday, 29 November 2021, is the eighth anniversary of when Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga signed the Norms and Standards for Public School Infrastructure into law. The Norms and Standards demands that all public schools in South Africa should have been provided with enough classrooms by 29 November 2020 (as well as enough electricity, water, and toilets), and provided with fences, telephones and internet. 

As part of our campaign launch today, we are holding a panel discussion on the impact of overcrowding. We will also present the findings of our research and we will hear from Equalisers (EE learner members), parents and teachers about their experiences of overcrowding. 

Date: Saturday 27 November 2021

Time: 11am to 1:30pm

Venue for panel discussion: Stompie Skosana Community Center, Emaphupheni 

Panel discussion speakers: 

  • Nicola Soekoe author of No Space for Us: Understanding Overcrowding in Gauteng’s Schools and independent consultant 
  • Mugwena Maluleke, General Secretary of the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) 
  • Matakanye Matakanye, General Secretary of the National Association for School Governing Bodies
  • Professor Brahm Fleisch, Professor in the Division of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the School of Education, University of Witwatersrand
  • Dr Sara Black, research fellow at the Centre for Education Rights and Transformation at the University of Johannesburg
  • Hudson Baloyi, Gauteng Department of Education Chief Director: Physical Resource Planning and Property Management


To arrange a media interview, contact: 

Jay-Dee Cyster (Equal Education Communications Officer) or 082 924 1352