The situation is so dire that the Gauteng Department of Education has started working on a plan to remove Grade 12 pupils to prepare elsewhere for next month’s matric examinations.
“The situation there is so bad, hence we had to make this decision,” said department spokesperson Steve Mabona.
Scenes of pupils wandering about the school yard while others gamble in the corridors during class have become so common that even teachers have resorted to turning a blind eye.
The Star visited the school on Friday and by 9am, scores of pupils were already outside their classrooms while others were seen using a hole in the palisade fence to bunk school.
A group of cigarette and drug sellers were spotted freely mingling with pupils through the fence. At least two fights broke on the same day.
“This place is a nightmare, the school is a drug den. There is no future. I’m only here because beggars can’t be choosers and I have my own children to feed,” said a Grade 10 teacher who has been at Klipspruit West for just more than 10 years.
The Eldorado Park school in Soweto was recently in the news after a violent racial protest erupted over the hiring of a black principal in July.
It is believed that the largely coloured community wanted a coloured candidate to take over as a principal.
The conflict also exposed racial tensions among black and coloured teachers.
Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi responded by deploying another official as a temporary principal, and launched an investigation into racism and corruption allegations.
However, misbehaviour still reigns at the school. It has now spilled over into the classroom.
The pupils also showed little respect for their uniforms, which many wore with tackies, hoodies and flashy jerseys.
In the classrooms, teachers were either waited for the missing pupils to return, or simply proceeded without them. In one classroom, a natural sciences teacher was supposed to start his class at 11am, but by 11.15am not one of his 33 pupils was in class. He later abandoned the lesson.
At an adjacent Grade 10 mathematics class, only 10 pupils out of 34 were in attendance.
“They are still playing outside. They say your class is boring,” said one pupil after her teacher inquired.
The Star spoke to three teachers, a member of the school’s patrol and several pupils. We learnt that two pupils have received restraining orders for harassing staff.
Last year, a teacher was slapped by a pupil after he reprimanded him for not going to class. Several teachers have left the school in recent years.
The school had an average 45% matric pass rate over the years, and this went up to 60% last year but still failed to reach the district office’s 80% target. The teachers said the improvement came after they took a decision to take matters into their own hands by introducing weekend classes.
They mainly blamed the lack of stability in management for the crisis. The school has had two permanent principals, one caretaker and two acting principals over the past 10 years.
“We have not had a stable principal over the past 10 years. The acting principals have not shown any commitment. Even with the little effort that we put in, we still get blocked because of the raging racism tensions between black and coloured teachers.
"Only Muslim and coloured teachers have access to the school’s email and other study resources distributed by the district office because the school’s secretary happens to be Muslim,” said another teacher.
The recently deployed acting principal is said to have been unresponsive to these challenges.