School short­age cri­sis

Zululand Observer - Monday - - FRONT PAGE - Or­rin Singh

THE short­age of schools in the City of uMh­lathuze has reached cri­sis level. This was ev­i­dent after scores of pri­mary and high school learn­ers were un­able to se­cure po­si­tions at schools within the city for the 2019 school year. Ac­cord­ing to King Cetshwayo Dis­trict Direc­tor for Ed­u­ca­tion, David Chonco, the dis­trict it­self is see­ing an in­flux of learner en­rol­ment at schools within the metropoli­tan ar­eas of Em­pan­geni and Richards Bay. `There is a short­age of schools in Richards Bay and Em­pan­geni be­cause they are fast grow­ing ar­eas which are seen as the hub for eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity within the dis­trict.

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Chonco in the mean­time said the Dis­trict Ad­mis­sion Com­mit­tee has worked round the clock since the open­ing of schools to en­sure that pupils who were turned away se­cured places. `We sent our cir­cuit man­agers to go back to schools to look for va­can­cies be­cause we need to fast track the place­ment process for learn­ers whose ap­pli­ca­tions were turned down due to the lack of space at cer­tain schools. `We are lucky with Richem in Em­pan­geni ˘ there were about six classes that were empty and we have man­aged to fill those classes in or­der to ease con­ges­tion at other schools, but this is just a tem­po­rary mea­sure. `We have made a sub­mis­sion to head of­fice for the in­stal­la­tion of mo­bile classes on the premises of cer­tain pri­mary and high schools within the city. `As the de­mand is high, we can­not build your kind of brick and mor­tar school and so an­other tem­po­rary mea­sure is to iden­tify schools where there is space on the prop­erty and we plan on oc­cu­py­ing that space with mo­bile classes. Chonco em­pha­sised that par­ents need to iden­tify at least three schools that they would like to send their chil­dren to, and ap­ply to all three in an at­tempt to safe­guard their chil­dren from not be­ing able to en­rol at the start of the school year. `We had to turn away so many learn­ers and it´s dif­fi­cult be­cause an­gry par­ents come into our of­fices and the fact of the mat­ter is that we can­not ac­com­mo­date more pupils. `It´s not just our school, it´s a num­ber of pri­mary schools in Richards Bay. Prin­ci­pals and teach­ers are get­ting fed up be­cause some schools are seat­ing 45 pupils in a class.´ Rauben­heimer ap­pealed to the de­part­ment to as­sist in this re­gard. `One or two new schools in Richards Bay is not enough. `It´s sad be­cause we´ve had to turn away peo­ple who ac­tu­ally live in the area.´ `We are work­ing un­der tough con­di­tions be­cause our in­fra­struc­ture in terms of schools in these ar­eas does not meet the pace of the in­flux of learn­ers. Chonco re­vealed they have iden­ti­fied at least six sites in Richards Bay and Em­pan­geni where new schools are ex­pected to be built. `We are look­ing at a site near Qalak­abusha and an­other at Hil­lview in Em­pan­geni. `Meerensee in Richards Bay has been ear­marked for the de­vel­op­ment of a Spe­cial Needs School while an­other site in Velden­vlei has also been iden­ti­fied for a school.´ Chonco said his de­part­ment is work­ing closely with the De­part­ment of Pub­lic Works in terms of spe­cific sites which have been ear­marked for new schools. `As the De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion we don´t own land; most of the land is owned by the De­part­ment of Pub­lic Works of which a num­ber of sites have been set aside for ed­u­ca­tion. `There are also some sites which fall on mu­nic­i­pal land that have been iden­ti­fied,´ he said. Prin­ci­pal of Velden­vlei Pri­mary School, Vi­vian Rauben­heimer, said the school found this year es­pe­cially hard to cope with in terms of ap­pli­ca­tions and peo­ple they had to turn away. He said the gen­eral con­sen­sus from pri­mary schools in the area is that there has been an in­flux of learn­ers from ru­ral schools want­ing to at­tend schools in the ur­ban ar­eas ˘ and while Rauben­heimer ad­mit­ted that he has no prob­lem with this what­so­ever, he does feel it is un­fair to peo­ple who live in the com­mu­nity. `Par­ents are bring­ing them here with the idea of at­tain­ing a bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion. `Velden­vlei Pri­mary School was ini­tially built to ac­com­mo­date about 671 learn­ers; in the last 14 years we have built 14 new class­rooms and this year we are build­ing more toi­lets ˘ all of which is be­ing done from school fees ˘ we´re do­ing the de­part­ment a favour,´ he told the ZO.

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