File Picture: Andrew Robertson/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
File Picture: Andrew Robertson/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Principals blamed for overcrowding in some public schools

By Bongani Nkosi Time of article published Mar 2, 2020

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* Editor's Note: The picture previously used in this article identified a KZN school that does not subscribe to overcrowded classrooms at all. We apologise to the principal and everyone associated with the school for any inconvenience caused.

School principals have been blamed for overcrowding in some of the country’s  public institutions.

In its report tabled following oversight visits in Capricorn and Sekhukhune districts in Limpopo, the National Assembly’s portfolio committee on basic education called for principals to be held accountable for overcrowding.

The committee visited 10 schools in the two districts from February 3 to 5 and tabled its report last week. The report effectively accused some principals of deliberately oversubscribing schools.

Most of the visited schools battled worrying levels of overcrowding. The committee even encountered overcrowded Grade R classrooms, the committee’s chairperson, Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, said on Sunday.

The report read: “There was general concern and condemnation of overcrowded classrooms, and members could not accept that some classes had up to 83 pupils. This defied the concept of quality teaching and learning.”

Most of the overcrowding was because schools such as Sepheu Moleke Secondary School in Gamampana village, Diphala Primary School in Madifahlane, Phafane Secondary School and Sehlaku Technical High School in Ga-Maroga, were oversubscribed.

They had accepted more pupils than their classrooms allowed, in violation of set admission policy.

“To avoid overcrowding, schools should be instructed to comply with the admission policy to ensure they do not accept more pupils than they are able to,” the report read. 

“Principals need to be held accountable for non-implementation of policy.”

Asked why principals would enrol too many pupils, Mbinqo-Gigaba said: “I don’t know why they are doing it. But I know that principals as individuals get more money (salary) if they have more pupils in their schools. So, it could be that they want to get more money and they don’t care about the quality of education.”

She said principals should develop a culture of saying no to parents when a school was full.

“A principal should be able to say my school is full and cannot take anymore admissions,” said Mbinqo-Gigaba, a former MEC for Sport, Arts and Culture in Northern Cape.

“What we need not be ashamed about is to produce quality education for a black child in South Africa. The number of kids in a class is a basic that is important.

“In Limpopo overcrowding even happens in Grade R. There was a school where a Grade R teacher was responsible for 72 children. That is bad,” she said.

Often schools became oversubscribed due to taking pupils from surrounding communities, she said.

“It’s not that the kids don’t have other options.”

Caiphus Moshutla, the chairperson of the Saviour Association of School Governing Bodies who joined the committee in its visits, said he opposed apportioning blame to principals.

“I disagree with the committee. I even disagreed with them when we were with the principals,” he said.

He added that principals enrolled too many children for fear of reprisals from the community and district officials if they did not.

Mashudu Ramulumo, the Limpopo president of the SA Principals’ Association, agreed. He also joined the committee during visits.

“Parents take their children to schools that are performing well, and you cannot just chase them away.

“If you chase them away as a principal, they will say our children have been denied admission to this particular school, and may even involve (local) politicians.”

Ramulumo said that there were not many principals taking more pupils to improve their pay, and in the process causing overcrowding.

“Yes, there are those principals who do admit as many as they can in order to increase their salary levels. However, that’s one in a million.

“It’s not fair to blame principals for overcrowding at schools,” Ramulumo said.

@BonganiNkosi87

The Star

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