Grade 9 pupils at Zisukhanyo Secondary School in Philippi prepare to write provincial tests in maths and language while sitting on the floor. Principal Babini Fatyela said the school has a shortage of 300 desks and chairs. Picture: Leon Lestrade
Grade 9 pupils at Zisukhanyo Secondary School in Philippi prepare to write provincial tests in maths and language while sitting on the floor. Principal Babini Fatyela said the school has a shortage of 300 desks and chairs. Picture: Leon Lestrade

Floored: the pupils with no desks

By Ilse Fredericks Time of article published Oct 13, 2010

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Grade 9 pupils at a Philippi school were forced to write their provincial maths and language tests on the floor because of a shortage of desks.

The shortage, which affects mainly Grade 8 and 9 pupils at Zisukhanyo Secondary School, is so severe that pupils have brought used paint cans to sit on and teachers often have to break up fights over available desks.

The Cape Argus team witnessed such a fight between two Grade 9 pupils just before they were about to start writing the provincial tests on Tuesday.

Principal Babini Fatyela said pupils “run around” in the mornings trying to secure a desk for the day.

“It is really pathetic when you go to classes, because some of them are standing and will stand for the duration of the day,” he said

In some of the exam rooms and classrooms the Cape Argus visited before the start of the tests, some pupils were seated at desks while others sat on the floor or on plastic chairs without legs and had to write with their books on their laps.

Dr Sedick Isaacs, a former political prisoner and former scientist at the University of Cape Town, who invigilated the Grade 9 tests at the school on Tuesday, said he was shocked when he saw the pupils sitting on the floor.

“I came into the school hall, which looks really nice, but couldn’t believe that pupils had to sit on the floor. I have never seen anything like it and went to speak to the principal.”

Fatyela said he had contacted a Western Cape Education Department (WCED) official numerous times but no assistance had been offered.

He said that since last year the school had had a shortage of 300 desks and chairs.

He explained that of the desks allocated to the school, some had reached the end of their lifespan while others had been damaged by pupils.

Fatyela said he had made a request for desks on January 25 and been told that it had to be endorsed by an institutional management and governance manager. He then got the endorsement.

In February, the department requested that he submit certain forms, which he did. At the time he was told that the department was looking into the matter but would not be able to help the school in the financial year that ended in March.

He contacted an education official in July and again in last month, but said he had received no response.

On Tuesday Grade 9 pupil Siphosethu Mpumputhwana said there had been no desk available for her to write her provincial tests.

“I didn’t feel good because I had to sit on the floor,” she said.

Another Grade 9 pupil, Totwe Amanda, said she, too, had not had a seat, and that during classes pupils found it difficult to concentrate while sitting on the floor.

Bronagh Casey, spokeswoman for Education MEC Donald Grant, said Grant was deeply concerned by the “allegations” and a top official in the WCED had been appointed to investigate the situation as a matter of urgency.

She said the minister was expected to get initial feedback on the investigation by this afternoon.

“If these allegations are true and learners have been forced to write in such circumstances, he believes it is completely unacceptable and has ordered an immediate investigation as to how this situation was allowed to develop, and will hold the responsible school leadership and/or district official to account,” she said. - Cape Argus

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