THEY work at their desks, sitting alone or in pairs, completing projects ahead of the end of term today. Not a peep can be heard from the pupils.
In one classroom are the Grade 4, 5 and 6 pupils of Tonko Bosman Primary School in the Cape Winelands, one of the 27 schools which have received notice of possible closure from Education MEC Donald Grant.
The school, which spans just a few rooms for 29 pupils from Grade 1 to 6, is situated on an almost hidden gravel road, just off the R44 between Somerset West and Stellenbosch.
There is no signage and it is reached by walking a muddy path.
Tractors often rattle past through the surrounding farms. Parents don’t pay fees at the small school where pupils are taught in Afrikaans.
Franco Hendrikse, 10, said he didn’t want the school to close. He said he was happy there, surrounded by his friends, and wasn’t sure he’d be happy at a new school.
Elzette Mahana, 11, said she was also unhappy about the possible move. “It’s nice here,” she whispered.
But principal Eugene van Graan said moving to another school might be a better solution for the pupils.
“The parents have agreed to that. It is in the best interests of their children. The facilities here are very minimal, we don’t have any extramural activities, Van Graan said.
“We can’t give them everything. We are the poorest school in the vicinity.”
He said the pupils, who all live on surrounding farms, will probably go to the nearby Raithby Primary School about 3km away.
Van Graan, who has been at Tonko Bosman for 20 years, said he hoped he and the teachers would be able to join the pupils there.
“That was one of our requests. We must go with the kids.”
He said he looked forward to being at a school with sportsfields. “I’m a sportsman. So it’s been difficult for me, not being able to give back.”
Tonko Bosman was targeted for possible closure because of its poor infrastructure and declining pupil numbers.
Van Graan said the number of pupils at the school had dropped from 74 four years ago.
He attributed this to workers living further from the farms, in areas like Macassar and Strand. Van Graan said closure of the school, which has been around since the 1960s, wouldn’t be fought. In the classroom next door are the Grade 1 to 3 pupils.
They were also sitting quietly at their desks, completing tasks in their workbooks.
Their teacher, Yvonne Swarts, who has been at the school for 24 years, said she wasn’t happy about its possible closure. “This school has been part of our lives,” she said.
“Like the kids, I’m afraid to move from here.”
She said she hoped the pupils would be sent to a nearby school as she, and their parents, were nervous about what could happen to them while travelling.
“We want to go to a school near us. The parents want that too. Anything can happen to the kids on the bus.”
Swarts is also concerned about the school’s pet dog, Winnie, who has been coming to class every day for 12 years.
“Every day at school, never absent. She’s part of our lives and she will miss us.”