Over­crowd­ing, an­gry par­ents as schools open

WCED asks for pa­tience as it as­sesses teacher al­lo­ca­tion

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - NOR­MAN CLOETE

A CLASS­ROOM crammed with close to 80 pupils, an­other class in a makeshift tent and school clo­sures due to protests.

These are the tough chal­lenges teach­ers and par­ents faced as the aca­demic year got un­der way this week.

The Grade 7 class at Intshinga Pri­mary School in Gugulethu, has 78 pupils. The school gov­ern­ing body (SGB) has hired a tem­po­rary teacher to help the over­whelmed class teacher.

The teacher, who wanted to re­main anony­mous, said the school had 500 pupils, ex­clud­ing its foun­da­tion phase, and it qual­i­fies only for a cer­tain num­ber of teach­ers while the school has three class­rooms stand­ing empty.

“Our num­bers di­rectly af­fect the num­ber of teach­ers we are al­lo­cated,” said the teacher.

He com­plained that the pupils who sit at the back of the class­room can­not see what was writ­ten on the white­board and dis­ci­pline was a chal­lenge as he can­not see what hap­pens in the class at all times.

He said the av­er­age class size at the school was 30-plus pupils and the West­ern Cape Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment (WCED) usu­ally al­lo­cates one teacher for ev­ery 39 pupils. The school can ac­com­mo­date up to 800 pupils.

“I have been teach­ing at this school for 20 years and our sit­u­a­tion has not changed. I feel sorry for the younger teach­ers who are ex­pected to cope with such big classes.”

At Sokhanyo Pri­mary, also in Gugulethu, a prin­ci­pal was chased from the premises by protest­ing par­ents and the school was shut down.

Ac­cord­ing to the prin­ci­pal the re­volt was started by a Grade 1 teacher who was un­will­ing to move class­rooms.

At Ma­troos­berg Pri­mary in Bel­har, 157 pupils were ac­com­mo­dated un­der a makeshift tent be­cause of a short­age of class­rooms.

As many as 68 pupils were crammed into one class­room.

Ear­lier this week, a Bishop Lavis school re­ceived the good news that the WCED would pro­vide them with more teach­ers.

This fol­lows com­plaints by par­ents af­ter it emerged that one class at Bergville Pri­mary School had as many as 72 pupils.

WECD spokesper­son, Mil­li­cent Mer­ton said the depart­ment was aware of the chal­lenges some schools were ex­pe­ri­enc­ing with an in­crease in pupils and crammed classes.

“This hap­pens at the start of each school year as schools fi­nalise class lists and late ap­pli­ca­tions.

“That is why the WCED keeps an al­lo­ca­tion of ed­u­ca­tor posts sep­a­rate to those that were dis­trib­uted pre­vi­ously, in or­der to ac­com­mo­date un­ex­pected growth.”

She added that schools which have large class sizes and sub­stan­tial in­creases in pupil en­rol­ment could ap­ply to their district for ad­di­tional posts. The depart­ment re­views the ap­pli­ca­tions and dis­trib­utes ad­di­tional posts to schools where there are needs.

“It gen­er­ally takes a num­ber of weeks for the sys­tem to sta­bilise as we fi­nalise late en­rol­ments. We also ex­pe­ri­ence an­other spike in learn­ers at the end of Jan­uary, af­ter “pay day”, when learn­ers

travel from other prov­inces or ar­eas and take up places in schools.

The prin­ci­pal of Intshinga Pri­mary School will be ap­ply­ing for a growth post,” she said.

The depart­ment had planned to place 1 170 837 pupils, but fi­nal fig­ures will be avail­able only af­ter it has con­ducted a sur­vey which will be com­pleted next week.

Ed­u­ca­tion MEC Deb­bie Schäfer said pri­mary schools in the West­ern Cape had taken in 108 325 Grade 1 and 83 360 Grade 8 pupils.

Some par­ents were still strug­gling to find schools for their chil­dren.

Som­er­set West father Steven Smith said he could not find a school for his two sons in the Helder­berg area.

“All the gov­ern­ment schools say they are full and the pri­vate ones are way too ex­pen­sive,” said Smith.

His sons at­tended De Villiers Graaff School in Vil­liers­dorp last year but could not re­turn to the school be­cause of out­stand­ing school fees.

“I still owe the school R31 000 and I sim­ply don’t have that kind of money. Some of the pri­vate schools in our area are charg­ing up to R14 000 per month per learner. What are we as par­ents sup­posed to do?”

A fur­ther frus­tra­tion was that the two clos­est schools are Afrikaans medium schools.

Other par­ents have blamed the schools, say­ing they are re­fus­ing to ac­cept their chil­dren.

Kens­ing­ton father San­dro Josephs ap­plied to six north­ern suburbs schools be­fore he found a spot for his Grade 8 son at Oude Molen High in Pinelands.

“I work in Bel­lville so it would have been easy for me to drop and fetch my son on my way to and from work. All the schools wanted salary slips and I think where we lived and what I earn may have played a role.”

Josephs has had to find ex­tra money for bus fare, a bur­den he said was shared by many par­ents who can­not en­rol their chil­dren close to home.

“I fol­lowed the proper pro­ce­dure and I still can­not un­der­stand why not a sin­gle school in the north­ern suburbs ac­cepted my son,” said Josephs.

A Mitchells Plain mother, who wanted to re­main anony­mous, has ac­cused a lo­cal school of favour­ing some par­ents above oth­ers.

The mother lives in Westridge and has been try­ing since June to get her Grade 4 son en­rolled at a school closer to home.

“The school of my choice told me that they have a wait­ing list. I have been go­ing there ev­ery day to get my son in. One day I heard the prin­ci­pal say to an­other par­ent that they do not need to worry as she knows their faces and that their child will get in,” said the woman.

Bur­gundy Es­tate mother Tas­neem To­e­rien has also been bat­tling to get her daugh­ter into a high school.

“All the schools in my area claim that they are full. The only school that can take my daugh­ter costs R65 000 per year and I am do not have the means to pay that. My child does not have a school.”

Ac­cord­ing to To­e­rien, her daugh­ter has been placed on a wait­ing list, but none of the three schools can give her an in­di­ca­tion whether her ap­pli­ca­tion will be suc­cess­ful.

The ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment says in terms of the South African Schools Act, SGBs de­ter­mine their own ad­mis­sions pol­icy.

There­fore, a school can de­ter­mine cri­te­ria in line with the law which could ben­e­fit some pupil ad­mis­sions over oth­ers – such as sib­ling pref­er­ence.

WCED spokesper­son Jes­sica Shelver re­minded par­ents that ap­ply­ing to a school does not guar­an­tee ac­cep­tance.

“It is quite sur­pris­ing how many par­ents only ap­ply at one school each year. The prox­im­ity to a school does not al­ways guar­an­tee place­ment. Liv­ing 50m from a school or 50km can­not guar­an­tee place­ment. Some schools fac­tor prox­im­ity in their ad­mis­sions poli­cies, but it is rarely the sole cri­te­rion, if it is a cri­te­rion at all,” said Shelver.

She added that some schools re­ceived five times the num­ber of ap­pli­ca­tions than the places they have avail­able.

Agency (ANA)

Intshinga Pri­mary School has 78 Grade 7 pupils in one class. | AYANDA NDAMANE African News

HENK KRUGER

A SUN­SET cel­e­bra­tion at Gor­don’s Bay yes­ter­day as clouds roll in from the west. A cold front was ex­pected to make land­fall yes­ter­day, bring­ing the first rain for the re­gion in 2019. | African News Agency (ANA)

HENK KRUGER African News Agency (ANA)

Over­crowded Ma­troos­berg Pri­mary school in Bel­har was forced to hire a tent to ac­com­mo­date 157 pupils. |

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