Zaakirah Ebrahim teaches Grade 1 learners on their first day of school at Nellmapius Primary School Number Two. File picture: Oupa Mokoena/ANA
Johannesburg - A recently released report has shown how children from advantaged schools continued to perform better than learners from less advantaged ones, due to parental income.

The report indicated that the children of parents who paid more for school fees enjoyed the privilege of learning in smaller classes, due to extra teachers being employed by the school governing body (SGB), who are paid with school funds.

They thus received a higher quality of education than their peers in poorer schools, who were taught in overcrowded classrooms.

“At the moment we have 14 posts that the SGB is paying for. That makes the teacher-learner ratio 1:25 in some of the subjects and less in other subjects. This makes it possible for this school to get better results at the end of the year.”

This was the comment of a teacher from a public school that was published in the Basic Education Department’s National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (Needu) report.

Other comments in the report, titled “Schools that Work II", also revealed inequalities between rich and poor schools regarding the quality of education.

Another teacher was quoted as saying: “We have a lot of governing body-paid teachers, and if our governing body did not appoint those teachers, our results were not going to be good.”

The two teachers, unnamed in the 223-page report, were employed at quintile 5 schools - the most well resourced and advantaged public schools.

Public schools in the country are arranged into quintiles. Schools classified as quintiles 1, 2 and 3 comprise 60% of the schools in the country, largely in rural areas and townships.

Most of them are no-fee schools and receive R1316 from the state for each pupil annually. This will increase to R1390 next year and R1468 in 2020.

Quintiles 4 and 5, comprising 40% of the country’s schools, are mainly located in affluent communities. They receive fees from parents and minimal state funding. Quintile 4 institutions receive R660 per learner each year, while quintile 5 schools get R228.

This quintile section also runs fundraising campaigns.

“Quintile 5 schools are able to raise the most revenue to afford hiring additional teachers,” according to the Needu report.

Their rural and township counterparts have little chance of raising funds and “are not authorised to use its school allocation to hire additional teachers”, the study pointed out.

The study noted: “Schools in the lower quintiles (1 to 3) have a much higher teacher-learner ratio than quintile 5 and some quintile 4 schools.

“For example, in sample schools, in 2016 in quintile 5 schools, the average teacher to learner ratio in Grade 12 was 1:40 in physical science, compared to 1:69 in quintile 1 schools.”

So what hope can there be for disadvantaged schools? What can be done to ensure they have more teachers, in order to cut down class sizes and the teacher: learner ratio?

The National Association of School Governing Bodies (NASGB), whose members are predominantly rural and township SGBs, believes that one solution is to reintroduce and deepen the culture of fundraising in disadvantaged schools.

“The solution lies in SGBs becoming innovative in raising funds. The law allows us to raise funds,” NASGB general secretary Matakanye Matakanye told The Star.

“In the past we used to have concerts in our schools. They used to be attended and supported largely by parents. I think it’s a matter of us reigniting that innovative way of doing things,” he said.

Matakanye added that local businesses, individuals and organisations with particular skills could help schools: “Being innovative would also mean bringing everyone on board. If we raise lot of funds we’ll be able to augment teachers in our schools. It’s through augmenting our teachers that we would have quality learning and teaching.”

The South African Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu) called for a radical policy change in the allocation of teachers to schools.

Sadtu general secretary Mugwena Maluleke told The Star the department needed to change its current model of funding teacher posts.

“We need to review how the government is budgeting for education. We need to turn around the so-called equitable formula.

“In quintile 5 schools, parents are paying heavily for schools to be able to afford additional teachers and lower the class size.

“(But) the government gives them the same number of teachers as quintile 1 schools.

"We’re saying that if you continue with this equitable formula, we will never come to the same level of provisioning of teachers across schools,” said Maluleke.

The Department of Basic Education said it had a solution to the supply of teachers at public schools.

Spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the department had begun to send Funza Lushaka graduates as additional teachers to schools.

Funza Lushaka is a full-cost, multi-year bursary scheme, introduced in 2007, to improve the pool of teachers willing to work at rural schools.

The Star