Unions have slammed the provincial education department for their “lack of basic care and inadequate planning” to deal with rising pupil numbers and school overcrowding.
This, as the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) threatened to take legal action should teachers and parents continue to shut down Bloekombos Secondary School in Kraaifontein.
Disgruntled parents and pupils locked the school gates yesterday, protesting against overcrowding, with some classes currently accommodating 80 pupils, and demanded a new high school to be built in the area.
The parents said the school has a capacity for 1 200 pupils but over 2 000 were enrolled. The frustration also follows as the WCED said it still needed to place 450 pupils in schools.
SADTU provincial secretary Jonavon Rustin said: “The department should be ashamed it’s failing the working class.We are calling on the human rights commission to intervene and investigate as this is a human rights issue.
“We demand the department be transparent and state how long the children have been on the waiting list, which schools or districts are they planning to place them and of the 450 how many have been waiting since the beginning of the year.”
A Bloekombos SGB member who did not want to be named, added: "We have resorted to this because our cries have landed on deaf ears. We have tried to engage with the department and informed them of the pressure and the difficulty whereby one teacher must educate 81 pupils. The same teachers will have to educate another class of about 70 pupils when they change classes."
Education MEC spokesperson Jessica Shelver said the WCED will not build another school when a new school was opened in January 2019, to alleviate overcrowding at the school.
"Since the middle of 2018, the district instructed the principal and SGB of Bloekombos SS not to admit more pupils to the school, as the school was already full to capacity and we were opening a new high school in that area.
"Both the SGB and the principal have blatantly ignored this instruction and actually did exactly the opposite. They have admitted far more learners for 2019 than they can manage and they have not referred new learners to the new high school that has opened its doors and is currently underutilised. If they continue to shut down the school we will be forced to consider our legal options and disciplinary action against those involved."
Principal Simphiwe Kuze of Mzamomtsha Primary School in Driftsands, near Khayelitsha said they had to turn their new library into a classroom as the 14 classes school had 770 pupils.
Meanwhile mobile classrooms were an option to accommodate the current high number of unplaced pupils, Education department spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said.
“The department is currently erecting dozens of mobiles to alleviate shortages in these areas. This will then be able to assist with the current figure (450).
The department also vowed that each school where the 450 pupils get placed would be assisted with catch-up plans.
However Naptosa’s executive director Basil Manuel said the number of unplaced pupils was absurd and the catch-up classes don’t guarantee they won’t repeat their grades.
“We have seen in some cases children older than the grade they are supposed to be in become problematic, so this creates a social problem.
“They are deprived their childhood when they need to stay after school in order to catch up, a child needs to be a child. It’s like they are saying we’ve messed up and you have to take the punishment.This is not just about the provision of basic education but about the mental and physical health.The tragedy is that it’s always the poorest of the poor.”
Manuel said the province and Gauteng were the two provinces that had major overcrowding problems.
“We understand that some problems arise where families relocate because the departments have been pointing this out. However, if the department has adequate planning then there should be no excuse as this is surely not a new issue.
“The short-term solution cannot be to cram 70 or more children in one classroom as this affects their behaviour, safety, mental health and also the physical and mental health of a teacher.Teachers are taking more time off and others are leaving the profession and retiring earlier,” Manuel said.