Only 1 high school to every 3 primary schools in Western Cape

Girls in uniform.

The number of high schools in the Western Cape is only about a third compared to the number of primary schools. Photograph : Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Mar 25, 2021


There are roughly three primary schools to each high school in the Western Cape, a problem that has been plaguing the province since before 1994.

This means that 1 in 3 children will not be able to attend a public high school close to home - if at all.

Siphosethu Runqu, a Khayelitsha community activist, said in the Victoria Mxenge area alone there are five primary schools which are feeder schools to only one high school.

“In our area alone, not even the rest of Khayelitsha, we only have one high school and five primary schools. Now tell me, where are all these children who are now in grade 7 going to go next year for grade 8?

“The children are not going to remain in grade 7 forever, they will progress to the next grade. We need for there to be consideration of this,” he said.

’We are not raising drop-outs here’

Runqu said one of the reason Usasazo Secondary School was shut down by parents on Tuesday was because it is the only high school that services the area.

“We need more high schools to be built. They need to be equivalent to the number of primary schools. We are not raising drop-outs here,” he said.

School admissions in the Western Cape have been a contentious issue with political parties and student organisations participating in the blame game. Every year, parents queue outside schools for placement.

To curb this, the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) introduced an online enrolment and admissions portal where parents applied online and also manually at the schools.

However, that has come with its own problems as there are still thousands of children who have not been placed at schools, most especially grade 8 pupils.

According to the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), there is a total of 1 449 public schools in the province. Of which, 984 are primary schools and only 384 are high schools, a difference of 600 schools.

The rest of the 80 schools are intermediate or combined schools.

WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said there were 713 947 primary school pupils from grade 1-7 and 385 454 high school pupils from grade 8-12 enrolled in the province.

Lack of school infrastructure and staff

Former South Peninsula High School principal Brian Isaacs, who has more than three decades of experience, said he was concerned about the education system.

He said the main concern was too few teachers, lack of high schools and the shortage of Mathematics and Physical Sciences’ teachers – to name a few.

According to the provincial ANC and the Congress of South African Students (Cosas), the WCED has identified Mitchells Plain, Eerste River, Strand, Delft, Du Noon, Mfuleni, Khayelitsha, Vredenburg, Mossel Bay, Hermanus and Grabouw as the areas most affected by the problem of insufficient school capacity.

“The reality of the matter is that pupils in the Western Cape are suffering from insufficient school capacity. While the demand for learning places at schools in the Western Cape continues to grow annually, the WCED has failed to augment school capacity to match the demand,” the two organisations said.

The two sited an Annual School Survey data that showed that enrolment in Western Cape schools for Grades 1 – 12 in Public Ordinary Schools increased from:

  • 2016 - 998 925
  • 2017 - 1 020 642
  • 2018 – 1 044 596
  • 2019 – 1 063 293
  • 2020 – 1 077 927

As of January 25, 2021, there were 1 050 392 learners enrolled for Grades 1 – 12 in Public Ordinary schools in the Western Cape.

Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schafer, admitted that there was not enough infrastructure and staff to accommodate the 19 000 extra pupils in the province this year. This is despite building 33 mobile schools, 54 brick and mortar schools and replacing 62 schools since 2009 to accommodate growth and ageing infrastructure.

Ratio per pupil

Department spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said the WCED has approximately 1 229 988 places in classes using a ratio of 1.2m per child.

“While accommodation is a concern in some communities that have grown rapidly, there is still the need for additional teachers to teach in those classrooms. Currently, our spend on personnel expenditure to non-personnel expenditure in public schools is 86:14, while national policy targets state it should be of the order of 80:20,” she said.

* This story is part of a series in which IOL will be scrutinising the ability of local and national government to provide quality education for all learners.

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