Johannesburg - The Limpopo Education Department is to merge 301 schools and close down 176.
About 53 000 pupils and nearly 2 000 teachers - including principals - will be affected.
Education MEC Dikeledi Magadzi told the media on Wednesday that the decision was prompted by low enrolment at most of the affected schools.
She said the mergers were proposed by communities in some instances.
Kaalleegte Primary in Mokopane, in the Waterberg District, has five pupils and two teachers.
Two other nearby schools - Mokii Primary and Schaaphok Primary each have fewer than 20 pupils.
The schools have a total of five teachers.
The three schools will be merged with Sterkrivier Combined School, which has 79 pupils.
Last year, only three of the nine pupils passed matric at the combined school. This was an improvement from the zero pass rate in 2011, when nine pupils wrote matric.
Malimuwa Primary, which has eight pupils and one teacher, will merge with Soutpansberg Primary School in the Vhembe district.
Magadzi said some of the schools with low enrolment were separated only by a fence.
She cited the inadequate number of teachers, multi-grade teaching and many streams as major challenges that hampered the quality of teaching and learning.
Magadzi was confident the merger would reduce the workload on teachers and improve the quality of teaching.
She made a commitment that her department would provide transport for pupils forced to travel long distances as a result of the merger.
Magadzi said the SA Schools Act allowed affected parties to make presentations about the proposed mergers.
“The act provides an opportunity to the school governing bodies of the identified schools and any other interested persons, who must be given not less than 90 days, to make representations from the date of receipt of the notice,” she said.
Department spokesman Phuti Seloba said none of the affected teachers would lose their jobs.
However, some of the principals would be stripped of their positions.
“That is why we are saying even those principals, definitely they will not lose their benefits, except the titles, which are insignificant,” said Seloba.
It’s not clear what will happen to the buildings at the schools to be closed.
Magadzi said Public Works was the custodian of government buildings.
Pat Kgomo, spokesman for the Public Works Department, said the decision on empty school buildings would be taken only after a full briefing from the Education Department.
Pupils were expected to vacate schools earmarked for closure in January.