Cape Town - The 2013 school year got off to a good start, although late enrolments remained a problem at some Western Cape schools.
There was a tyre-burning protest by parents in Knysna over a lack of transport, and at a school in De Doorns - hit by farm strikes - only half the pupils turned up on Wednesday.
Bronagh Casey, spokeswoman for Education MEC Donald Grant, said the department was pleased schools were operating normally in the Cape Winelands despite recent farm strikes.
“All schools have high attendance, except for one, in De Doorns, which is at just over 50 percent capacity. This school is operating as per normal though. It is a small school of around 220 learners.”
In Knysna, some pupils at the new Concordia High School had to be accommodated in marquees while mobile classrooms were being completed.
Western Cape Education Department (WCED) director of communications Paddy Attwell said the classrooms would be ready within three weeks. He described the marquees as being sturdy, well-lit and waterproof.
Construction delays were caused by “additional requirements for consultation” and the weather.
“The contractors have assured the department that the remaining 14 mobile units and the administrative building will be completed in three weeks,” said Attwell.
The marquees would complement the 13 mobile classrooms already in place for the 1 115 pupils enrolled at the new school.
But SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) provincial secretary Jonavon Rustin said members had informed the union that conditions at the school were not conducive to learning.
“Why put children in a school that has not been completed? This is not right. Why would you put children in tents?” he asked.
He said some parents wanted to remove their children from the school and return them to the schools they attended last year.
Two kilometres away from the school, in Witlokasie, parents burnt tyres in protest over transport.
Attwell said: “There is a group of parents who want the department to provide transport for learners (to) the new Concordia High School. The policy of the department is to provide transport for learners who live more than 5km from the nearest school and where no public transport is available.”
In Wallacedene, a few parents were still looking for places at Enkululekweni Primary for their children.
Principal Nondlela Tomose said the school still needed furniture for some of the classrooms, but Casey said the the school had yet to submit a requisition form for additional furniture.
In Manenberg, the principal of Silverstream Secondary – the school with the lowest matric pass rate in the Western Cape in 2012 – started the school year in a positive mood. Dawood Tregonning said they were ready to improve on their 34 percent pass rate and had identified the areas that needed improvement.
Tregonning said factors that had contributed to the poor results included gang violence, which traumatised pupils, and a lack of support at home.
“Parents need to create the space and time for kids to learn at home because sometimes I feel education stops when they leave school,” he said.
Phoenix High School, also in Manenberg, was one of six schools in the province assigned law enforcement officers for security.
Three police cars and one metro police van could be seen parked inside the school grounds while officers patrolled the premises.
Principal Shafiek Abrahams said he was positive the initiative would help to keep pupils safe. People with guns had caused trouble at the school several times in the past.
“We are optimistic. Having worked in this area for 30 years, you can’t be a pessimist. We have 900 learners here and need to keep them safe,” Abrahams said.