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### Revolutionizing Education Reform: AI’s Promising Role – The Mail & Guardian

The education system in South Africa has made notable progress in embracing inclusive education following the apartheid era. However, challenges persist, including disparities in educational quality, a lack of qualified educators, and overcrowded classrooms. Artificial intelligence (AI) emerges as a promising solution to transform teaching and learning methods within the South African educational landscape, offering avenues for inclusive and high-quality education.

One pressing issue is the scarcity of teachers, with nearly half of the current educators set to retire in the next ten years. This shortage results in overcrowded classrooms, with an average student-to-teacher ratio of 30:1 nationally, and even higher ratios in rural areas. Studies suggest that an ideal ratio should range from 10 to 18 students per teacher for effective learning.

Moreover, South Africa exhibits one of the most unequal school systems globally, with well-resourced schools outperforming those with limited resources significantly. Addressing this inequality is crucial to ensure equitable access to quality education for all students, regardless of their backgrounds.

Another concerning aspect is the high dropout rates among South African students, with nearly 30% of 18-year-olds leaving school in 2021. Poor academic performance stands out as a key reason for these dropouts, highlighting the need to create a supportive educational environment that motivates students to excel.

Failure to address these educational shortcomings risks trapping students in a cycle of missed opportunities, potentially leading to unemployment, limited earning potential, and social challenges. Embracing AI presents a transformative opportunity to revolutionize education in South Africa, leveraging the country’s growing internet user base and mobile device penetration.

AI technologies, such as educational chatbots and personalized learning assistants, offer tailored support to students, addressing individual learning needs and language barriers. In Tanzania, initiatives like the AI tutor system SATU by Ed-tech companies demonstrate the potential of AI in supplementing traditional education methods and providing accessible learning content via SMS technology.

AI tutor systems not only help alleviate the teacher shortage crisis but also enhance educators’ ability to deliver quality education by automating administrative tasks and offering personalized learning experiences. By integrating AI into the education sector strategically, South Africa can bridge the gap in educational access and quality, paving the way for a more educated and prosperous society.

James Maisiri, a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Johannesburg, advocates for the strategic adoption of AI in education to empower students and educators alike.