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Grade 1 pupils at a Strand school are using empty ice cream tubs as tables or lying on the floor to write because they have no chairs or desks.
Some lucky enough to have a plastic chair use it as a desk, while others have to kneel or crouch when writing.
This was the situation in two of the Grade 1 classrooms at ACJ Phakade Primary School on Wednesday.
Nikelwa Gqeba, head of department for the grade, said it was painful to see the pupils sitting on the floor.
She and school governing body members said the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) had been made aware of the situation.
The school has more than 500 Grade 1 pupils and because of a shortage of teachers for the grade, five volunteers have to teach some of them.
Holes in the floor of one of the classrooms have been covered with wooden boards but some cracks had been left open.
“I am always stressed. I can’t cope with the workload,” Gqeba said.
School governing body member Isaac Mcinziba said the department expected the pupils to perform despite the circumstances.
Principal Vuyisile Cenga said there had been an uncontrolled influx of people from outside the province, adding that a new school was being built in the area.
The school had applied for chairs and desks earlier this year.
The school is not the first where pupils have had to cope without desks.
In 2010 the Cape Argus reported that Grade 9 pupils at Zisukhanyo High School in Philippi had to write provincial Grade 9 maths and language tests on the floor because of a shortage of desks.
Some pupils brought paint cans from home to sit on while teachers often had to break up fights over available desks and chairs.
At the time Education MEC Donald Grant apologised to the pupils and desks and chairs were delivered.
An investigation was ordered and an audit of desks and chairs done.
At the time Grant said he was determined there would be no shortage in future in any school in the province.
It was also announced that education officials would do spot checks at the province’s schools.
Grant became aware of the situation at ACJ Phakade after the Cape Argus contacted his spokeswoman, Bronagh Casey, on Wednesday.
She said he would visit the school on Thursday to investigate.
“According to our officials the school had exceeded their limit in terms of (admissions) at the beginning of the school year after an influx of additional learners to the immediate area. The WCED had not received any applications for additional educator posts... “
To address overcrowding at the school, 800 pupils would be transferred to a new mobile school with 18 classrooms at the beginning of the third term.
ACJ Phakade has also been placed on the department’s replacement programme for schools built with inappropriate materials during apartheid.
“The WCED plans to begin building a new replacement school once the 800 learners have been transferred to the other school site,” Casey said.
Steps were being taken to provide additional teaching posts and to address the furniture shortage.
WCED officials were expected to meet the school governing body and parents on Thursday.
Jonavon Rustin, provincial secretary of the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union, said the union was appalled by the conditions the pupils had to learn in, and someone had to be held responsible. “Every single child must have a table to sit at... You must make provisions for more teachers if the school qualifies for it.”
Teacher morale was low and the union had been contacted for help.