Matatiele, Eastern Cape - The Eastern Cape has failed to improve conditions at Moshesh Senior Secondary School in Matatiele, rights group Equal Education (EE) said on Tuesday.
“Earlier this year EE was contacted by Eastern Cape learners describing appalling problems at their rural school, Moshesh...,” EE said in a statement.
The pupils claimed the school had not received textbooks and was relying on books from the 1980s, and that the school principal was absent for nine months.
“The Maluti district, the acting superintendent general and the Eastern Cape education MEC have all unequivocally failed to meet their responsibilities to learners at Moshesh,” EE said.
Eastern Cape education department spokesman Loyiso Pulumani agreed that there were serious problems at the school.
“Our concern is that there was a serious breakdown of basic teaching and learning... because of instability at the school.”
Classes would be held over the holidays to make up for lost teaching time, he said.
EE said it had tried to contact the provincial government to resolve the problems, but received no response.
EE visited Moshesh Secondary in June and found that teachers often arrived late for school, left early or were absent, without making arrangements for schooling to continue.
“Curriculum planning and delivery are neither occurring nor being monitored by the principal or the district.”
The school principal was accused of illegally expelling and assaulting pupils, and of failing to keep up with the administration of the school.
Pulumani said the department was aware of the allegations against the principal, and that an investigation was underway.
He said one of the apparent causes of the problems was that there were “factions” among teachers, and that there had been a breakdown between various levels of staff.
“We have indicated that our labour relations section will investigate this Ä and no one will be spared,” Pulumani said.
Pupils had sent EE an impassioned letter describing the problems and appealing for help.
“We have big problems in our school and this led us to fail, and it also destroyed our lives and future in general,” they wrote.
The children claimed that the school was drastically under-staffed and that Grade 12 pupils lived in the school hostel unsupervised.
EE said that district officials had visited the school, but had refused to meet parents or the school governing body.
Pulumani denied this.
“Our district manager had several meeting with parents and the school governing body.”
The rights group said the situation at Moshesh had not improved, despite Pulumani's comment, reported in the Times on Monday, that the department has “put measures in place” to ensure that teaching resumed.
“EE will consider the possibility of legal action if the situation is not resolved urgently.”
Pulumani said the department did have an intensive catch-up plan in place to deal with the backlog.
A nearby boarding school would host additional classes and the department had already delivered teaching materials, including study guides, educational DVDs and past exam papers, to the school.
“There will be no spring holidays, there will be catch up classes. We have arranged a stipend for additional teachers in the district to help out.”
The department would provide food for the holiday classes and parents had volunteered to cook it.
Pulumani said the catch-up classes would be intensive and would focus on the subjects that had been worst affected at the school.
Matatiele lies below Lesotho in a remote area of the Eastern Cape. - Sapa