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The Western Cape Department of Education is looking for ways to close the gap between less fortunate and more privileged schools in the province.

This after calls for an equality summit to be held to address the education gap between quintile one and five schools.

“It is our main priority to improve the bottom end of the system. We want to provide quality education for every child, in every classroom, in every school,” said director of communications, Bronagh Hammond.

Currently, the department gives quintile one to three schools R1316 per learner, quintile four schools receive R660 per learner; and quintile five schools R228 per learner.

While most schools in the lower quintile groups are often grossly under-resourced, unable to offer extramural programmes and remain understaffed due to funding, quintile four and five schools rely on school fees to make up for the additional funding they require.

These school fees are determined by the School Governing Body (SGB) each year.

The department said it does not mean if a school falls under the lower quintile group it does not perform well when compared to the higher quintile groups.

Quintile one saw an increase from 2009 to 2017 in their matric results by 16.3%. Quintile two had a 12.9% increase, three had a 14.8% increase, four had a smaller increase with just 8.1% and quintile five had a 2.2% increase.

“According to our systemic results, the gap between our so-called previously advantaged and disadvantaged schools is closing. For instance, in Grade 3 and 6 maths in the systemic tests, quintile two schools performed better than quintile four. However, there is still a long way to go in terms of eradicating the gap altogether,” added Hammond.

UCT education expert Xolisa Guzula said quintile five schools still operate like private schools.

“They might as well call themselves semi-private schools rather than state schools. Like private schools they are commodifying education, thus creating a two tiered education - one for the rich and one for the poor,” commented Guzula.

She added that parents who cannot pay the exorbitant fees have no choice but to send their children to schools that are struggling to provide quality education due to historical imbalances in the system.

When lower quintile schools were compared by the department from 2009 through to 2017, they found that the lower quintile status schools had a bigger increase in their matric results.

SA Democratic Teacher’s Union (Sadtu) provincial secretary Jonavon Rustin said the quintile system was systematically flawed.

“The lower quintile schools have less access in terms of infrastructure and technology due to the number of students at these schools and lack of funding. We however, do agree that the poorer schools should get more. This system needs to change, it is sometimes found that poorer schools are falling in the high quintile group,” explained Rustin.

“It should be divided as rich and poor schools. The poorer schools need to see an increase in funding and the rich schools a decrease,” he added.

I’m A township quintile two school principal who is known to the Weekend Argus said the money which they receive will never be enough because there is so much that needs to be done at his school.

“We don’t have the proper technology at our school, classrooms need to be maintained and teachers paid. I want a school hall so learners can be addressed properly. We stand outside in the summer to address them but in the winter and rainy days we just can’t have an assembly,” he explained.

The principal added that he knows that he will never get the school hall because it costs about R3million. Another concern for him is security.

“There is no access control. pupils and teachers are being robbed because we do not have enough money for security. The money we get covers cleaning, the telephones and the payment of teachers.”

He wants his pupils to have access to a library at the school so they can study and do research but this has not been possible due to the lack of funding, according to him.

Dr Malcolm Venter from the Governing Body Foundation of the Western Cape explained that there was no cap on how much a quintile four or five school can charge for their schools fees per year.

He added that the real reason for the larger classes in the lower quintile schools is there are not enough schools to accommodate all the pupils in their areas.

Rondebosch Boys’ High School is a quintile five which charges about R49000 per annum for school fees.

“We do not make a profit or carry extra finances in our account. What we charge our parents is what it costs to run a school which offers the broad curriculum and activities expected by our parents who - through the elected school governing body - set the budget and decide on the curriculum offering and the extra-mural programme,” explained headmaster Shaun Simpson.

The 840 learners at Rondebosch generate about R190453 for the year from government funding.

However, according to Simpson, this is not nearly enough to run the school as there are still maintenance costs of their grounds, facilities and extramural programmes.

“The government funding barely covers the cost of water and electricity for two months.”

The school staff complement consists of 19 teachers, four HODs, one deputy principal and one principal.

“Close to 70% of the fees parents pay goes to the salary bill for these teachers and supplementing the additional support staff. In other words, what we charge is what it costs for what you get,” said Simpson.

“Our largest financial spend is on the classrooms and the educational activities of the school. We run an extensive scholarship programme financed both by our parents and philanthropic alumni and outside organisations to bring previously disadvantaged boys to our school. Approximately 20 boys per year group are on some level of scholarship.”

Another quintile five school, Rustenburg Girls’ High, works on a break-even budget and annual school fees have to cover costs such as the maintenance of buildings and grounds, services such as water, electricity, cleaning and security, as well as teaching and learning support material.

School fees also include the funding of an extensive extramural programme and the cost of additional teaching and support staff.

Similarly, their fees are around R49900 a year.

“We pride ourselves on the diversity of our learners and constantly strive to maintain and improve on this. We have a scholarship programme, financed by our fee-paying parents, bursaries sponsored by staff and past pupils, as well as numerous learners who are funded by a range of NPOs and NGOs,” said school principal Michael Gates.

He added that they offer a unique learning environment and are not in competition with other schools.

Meanwhile, Bergvliet High School, which charges about R28000, says their pupil intake is quite diverse in terms of race and socio-economic background.

The school currently has a 70% coloured population, 20% white and 10% black and Asian learners.

“Socio-economic diversity is reflected in that our learners are from the immediate area - Bergvliet, Kirstenhof, Tokia, Constantia, Diep River and Plumstead.

“But many of our learners are also from the local areas of Heathfield, Retreat, Muizenberg, Capricorn Park, Mitchells Plain and Strandfontein,” explained Patricia Demas, deputy head principal for the school.

She added that while the school has seen considerable improvement to their infrastructure of late, it has not resulted in fees increasing dramatically over the years (an increase of less than 7%).

“Learners from disadvantaged backgrounds can be found living close and further afield from the school. We accommodate these learners financially in terms of school fees, by allowing parents and guardians to apply for an exemption. A considerable portion of our budget makes provision for these exemptions,” said Demas.

According to educator, Craig Paxton, former Model C schools have played a crucial role over the past 25 years in providing high quality education to an increasingly diverse group of children.

“It is also important to note that not all of these schools are the same - some face very real funding pressures, despite their relative affluence, and all face competition from the private school sector. The main point, however, is that as public schools we must think carefully about the kinds of investment decisions that are made; there is a danger in the competitive behaviour that sometimes drives these choices.”