School shortage crisis
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.