Disgruntled parents and pupils locked the gates at Bloekombos Secondary in Kraaifontein yesteray in protest against overcrowding at the school. Photo: Ayanda Ndamane / African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town – Not even resource constraints may be used to justify the horrendous conditions faced by Western Cape public school pupils, said South African Human Rights Commission’s (SAHRC) education commissioner André Gaum.

His comments came as no learning took place at several Kraaifontein schools yesterday after about 5 000 irate parents and pupils took to the streets in solidarity with Bloekombos Secondary School, which was closed for a second day because of frustrations over overcrowding.

Among protesters were pupils from Masibambane Secondary, who said they shared the same overcrowding problems as Bloekombos and demanded a new school to be built in the area.

The pupils allegedly set alight to two houses, threw litter inside other Wallacedene and Bloekombos schools and chased away vehicles attempting to use Old Paarl Road, which they had blocked off.

Police were monitoring the situation with no arrests confirmed last night.

Gaum said the SAHRC was going to investigate the issue of unplaced pupils and severe overcrowding as it had raised the issues with Education MEC Debbie Schäfer at the beginning of the academic year.

“The commission is very concerned that there are still instances of severe overcrowding, and worse, and there are still pupils who have not been accommodated in schools. Their right to a basic education is being violated.

“The commission will most definitely look into this unacceptable state of affairs.”

Gaum said that although everyone has a right to protest, the SAHRC condemned any violence and destruction of property during the demonstrations.

Bloekombos Secondary is only able to accommodate 1 200 pupils, but 2 116 are enrolled, with some classes filled with 80 to 90 pupils, and Grade 12s writing their exams in its corridors.

At Mzamomtsha Primary in Driftsands, staff had to convert a new library, for which they had received a donation of new books and electronics, into a classroom.

Schäfer’s spokesperson Jessica Shelver said overcrowding was becoming the norm in the province as they faced financial constraints.

“(The Western Cape Education Department) will not be negotiating or giving into the demands of the principal and (school governing body) of Bloekombos. 

"They acted against the instruction of the district and admitted far more pupils to the school that the school could accommodate despite the school already being at full capacity.”

“In January, a new school was opened nearby but it’s underutilised. There is absolutely no doubt that this will have an effect on the upcoming mid-year exams. We therefore urge the police to restore public order speedily.”

Shelver said that at Mzamomtsha Primary, the district had requested additional mobile classrooms and was dealing with the matter as a priority.

Cape Times