Cape Town - The threat of being robbed and killed, insufficient space for the number of learners and a lack of classrooms were some of the complaints teachers had when visited by Parliament’s portfolio committee on basic education, which went to assess the readiness of schools in province.
So serious is the lack of classrooms that local councillors, community leaders and residents in Kraaifontein are in a tug-of-war on where the provincial Education Department should place mobile classrooms.
Education activist Linda Phito said he was disappointed with his colleagues’ focus on the location of where the classes should be placed, instead of the learners being in school.
“I don’t like how this mission to get children into school has turned into an opportunity for people to make moves. The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) had decided where to place the extra classrooms, solving this issue of unplaced learners, but people who are supposed to be leaders are contesting that decision and causing delays.”
Phito said that before the decision was changed, and according to his knowledge, the WCED was set to place mobile classrooms at Emithini Primary School in Bloekombos. However, due to the influence of other leaders, the plan had been halted.
WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said they planned to provide funding for four mobile classrooms.
“We are not aware of mobile classes being ‘placed at a different schools’ for the benefit and/or employment opportunities of anybody.”
Some of the schools visited by the portfolio committee included Noluthando School for the Deaf in Khayelitsha, St Mary’s Primary School in Nyanga, Belgravia High School and Astra Special School.
Committee chairperson Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba said that in some schools they were made aware of gangsterism in the areas where those schools are situated.
Mbinqo-Gigaba said those concerns were raised mostly in Nyanga, Mitchells Plain and Philippi.
"We cannot have learners and teachers who are in classrooms but they fear for when they go out of that classroom or school premises," said Mbinqo-Gigaba.
She said both the Education and Transport departments needed to find solutions, and get schools to be a place of safety.
Mbinqo-Gigaba recalled an incident when a Grade 6 maths teacher was shot and killed at Heinz Park Primary School in Philippi last year. She said some schools had been burgled and vandalised.
"When learners go to school, they should know that they are safe, and that they do not have to worry about what is going to happen in their lives," she said.
The ANC’s provincial spokesperson for education, Khalid Sayed, said that in certain schools there were classrooms that were no longer in use due to safety concerns.
Sayed claimed that the WCED had neglected a number of those schools and taken them off its roster for scheduled maintenance for no apparent reason.
Hammond said the WCED subsidised 470 schools on average for term time security, and that it had provided holiday security to 477 schools over the December/January holiday.
Progressive Principals’ Association (PPA) spokesperson Anthea Adriaanse said another concern was dealing with learners as young as 14 years old, who were allegedly addicted to cannabis, and those who sold contraband on school premises.
“There is not enough support for schools in this regard,” said Adriaanse.
After the school visit, the committees held a meeting with the WCED, Education MEC Debbie Schäfer, senior and district officials of the Department of Basic Education (DBE), school governing body associations (SGBs), teacher unions, and the South African Principals’ Association.
WCED acting deputy director-general for Education Planning, Salie Abrahams, said more than 170 mobile units had been approved by the Department of Transport and Public Works (DTPW).
Abrahams said that to date 34 units had been completed, and that the remainder were in the process of being rolled out.
Abrahams said that more than 90 vacant classrooms had been identified at schools in the province for learner placement, such as vandalised/damaged classrooms and rooms used as storage spaces.
He said funds had been approved to be transferred to repair 32 vandalised classrooms over the summer school holidays, and that 4 628 had been accommodated in those classrooms.
Abrahams said Schäfer consulted on the 2022 Affordable Basket of posts on July 26, 2021, with unions and SGB associations and the head of education on the allocation of the 2022 Affordable Basket of posts on August 12 and 16, 2021.
“A total of 34 974 teacher posts were made available for the 2022 academic year,” he said.