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Destined for the education sector

John Schooling, MD and founder of student accommodation group STAG African, was destined to end up in education – his surname is just a co-incidence. Starting off his career as a physical education teacher at Camps Bay High School in 1982, Schooling quit his job (and reliable income) to launch STAG Properties in 1984.

Formed as a partnership between Schooling, Traub and Grobler and creating the acronym STAG, Schooling’s venture into the world of property development initially focused on commercial developments, residential and private estates; “I was earning R780 a month as a teacher and with student loans to pay back, I was broke by the 10th of every month, poverty and I were bad bed fellows, so I decided to try my hand at self-employment,” says Schooling.

Schooling’s business, over the years he’d bought out his original partners and taken on new ones, came under threat in 2008 during the property crisis; “Developers were crashing right left and centre and we found ourselves in some serious trouble; we had to innovate in order to survive. During that time we identified an opportunity to develop, build, operate and finance student residences. Everything came together beautifully, even the name STAG Student Lodge, now STAG African, fitted in with the new company profile.” (Schooling, Truab and Grobler, STAG, conveniently translates into Student Accommodation Group.)

Student accommodation in South Africa is in a dire state; each year more than 200 000 students are not provided with adequate housing, the knock on effect of this is directly linked to the high failure rate at universities; “By creating optimally designed residences, the pass rate can be increased from 60 to 80%. Put simply, by not providing adequate housing, we’re setting up our learners to fail, the ramifications are huge.”

The problem for universities is that the cost of student accommodation is very expensive; the national norm is around R240 000 per bed – for a lot of universities, that’s unaffordable. “We looked around for a building method that we could apply to the South African context and discovered a substantially cheaper solution to bricks and mortar; something that is much better and of a superior quality.”

Using Innovative Building Technology, STAG African is able to reduce building time by 40% and the costs associated to it dramatically. “For universities, where cost ultimately is the deciding factor, it’s an obvious choice. By default, it addresses the student’s need for a green living environment and it creates sustainable skilled jobs in the green economy. It’s a win-win formula, whatever way you look at it.”

Designed, financed, operated and constructed by STAG African, Innovative Building Technology, used to build the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building and the old and new World Trade Centres, dramatically reduces carbon footprint and the cost and time taken to construct buildings. “Our green agenda happened by default. Our business model was based on cost – that’s how the Baby Boomers think, ‘how much is this going to save the university’ but then we realised our product also met the needs of the Millennials, our other target market. Students are not terribly concerned about cost; they want to know how things are impacting their environment. It’s not often that you can find a product so closely aligned to two very different generations.”


Since remoulding the business seven years ago, STAG African have provided 2 800 beds in South Africa and other regions on the continent. They are currently working on a R43-miilion residence at Stellenbosch University’s Tygerberg campus. Set for completion in November 2015, the residence has set its sights on being the greenest residence in Africa. In 2013 the STAG Group merged with African Student Accommodation Group (ASAG) to form STAG African, the business has subsequently branched out from building student residences to include green precincts, with two major multi-layered developments scheduled for Mthatha and Uppington. The company’s core focus is on creating green skills, for green jobs for a green economy.



Distributed by Be-cause Integrated Communications

Beverley Houston

021 447 1082 / 082 824 8617

On behalf of STAG African

Director: John Schooling

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