In my new work environment I spend a fair amount of my time travelling the vast expanse of our district. It is quite possible to cover three to four thousand kilometres a month visiting schools. Of course, it's a crazy thing to want to cover such mileage a month given the induced exhaustion on your body. A stand out feature of these trips is the number of roadworks projects in progress across the rural landscape. You would never be aware of this infrastructure upgrade if you travelled these areas on the odd occasion.
On one such trip today with a colleague and friend, our journey was interspersed by four stop-and-go points since the road was reduced to one lane give the reconstruction taking place. Each stop caused a delay of 10 to 20 minutes. Ordinarily this would get me brooding but there was no rush today. At each stop we spent time discussing the cost in repairing, resurfacing or reconstructing a road that stretched for 50km. We eventually agreed that it would probably be around R1 million per kilometre. This meant the road we were on could easily cost R50 million to complete. Staggering you will agree and brings into perspective that upgrading our South African roads would cost in excess of R150 billion.
Our conversation soon turned to the chaos that this construction brings - detours are put in place, lane narrowing occurs, seemingly disconnected earthworks are taking place parallel to the main areas of work, and this apparent disconnect between activities appear to make no sense. But as the road takes shape and the finishing touches are applied, the supposed madness starts to come together. You suddenly realise the the detours were necessary to allow the breakup of the main road, that the earthworks helped stabilise the surrounds and that the odd-and-ends brought aesthetic value to the final product. Today we saw the result of this frenetic activity over the last six months and we enjoyed the new road whilst almost forgetting the trauma we experienced whilst it was being constructed. And so R50 million doesn't sound like a lot of money when you look at the end product. You finally realise how meticulously the entire planning and execution was when you see the final, seamless project. And that the road will have a lifespan of a few decades.
Now, we have another major project that costs the nation over R200 billion per annum - Public Education. The sector carries a mandate to prepare the future of South African society to assume its rightful place in the global community. We have a project cycle of 12 years to get the basics in place, get the planning and execution right, so that the country can reap the fruits of this great expense in resources to shape our collective future. And the outcomes of this investment of money, time and resources shows itself in the learner achievement results of our thousands of learners. And when we look at the current outcomes, we must drop our heads! We are not getting decent returns for this massive investment by our society.
We have great policy, planning instruments are provided but successful execution still sadly fails us. And whilst we grapple, our learners wait. And while they wait, the rest of the world is moving on and we are failing further behind. But I'm not giving up and you can't afford to either. You see, it's not lost on me that the infrastructure called public roads, is overwhelmingly being put in place by unskilled and semi-skilled labour. And if they can deliver such excellence as we've seen today, how much more so if we give our children a decent education and learning experience in our schools, believing that each of them can and will pass because we've paid attention to the "detours" required, the "ancillary earthworks" and the meticulous management of the execution phase of the national project under construction!
What do you think? Do leave a comment.