Mfuleni school kids taught in a shack

Mary-Anne Gontsana
A church in Mfuleni used as a classroom to accommodate learners who don’t have space in the mobile classrooms in Bardale Primary School. Photo by Mary-Anne Gontsana.

As Cape Town weather gets worse, some Grade R learners from Mfuleni are being taught in a cold leaking shack with just one toilet, because there is insufficient space for them in a proper school.

Since January, GroundUp has reported the struggle parents have been facing to get their children into schools, because of lack of places in schools in Mfuleni. For a while pupils were being taught in a tent on an open field. Now they are taught in mobile classrooms as part of a Bardale Primary school policy known as “platooning”, in which a few hundred children start their school day at 1pm - just as the school day for other Bardale students ends. A new group of teachers starts with this second batch of students.

Some parents and community members have voiced their unhappiness about this policy, saying they fear for their children’s safety when coming home from school late, and they feel that their children do not get enough education because of the short time given for teaching.

Talking to GroundUp about how dangerous Mfuleni is for children, community leader and resident Bongani Tyembile said two incidents had been reported to him last week involving two children, in separate incidents, who were walking home after class at around 5pm in the afternoon.

“One child was chased by an unknown bakkie and another was approached by a white car, but quickly ran away,” he said.


The cold leaking shack has thin carpets which barely cover the sand. Learners’ schoolwork is hung on the walls. Photo by Mary-Anne Gontsana.

Accompanied by Equal Education members, Tyembile and Treatment Action Campaign activist Angy Peter, GroundUp was told by Peter that on Saturday the body of man who had been shot and stabbed was found lying just outside Bardale Primary School.

GroundUp was taken to Ntsodwa Street, not far from Bardale Primary School, to a shack which is used as a church. At its entrance is a flush toilet. The rusty zinc roof is filled with holes and leaks. Inside there are bunks, a table and Grade R alphabet and a number of charts hanging on the walls. It is cold.

“We have about 180 children in a class in the morning. There is only one toilet for them which they share with the teachers and most of the time there is a long queue to use the toilet,” said Tyembile.

The Western Cape Education Department’s Jessica Shelver said the department was not aware of a church being used as a Grade R classroom and said all Grade R sites must be registered with the WCED. She said District Officials were investigating.

Shelver said the WCED did not support platooning as a model and had offered alternatives to the community when the matter was first raised, including transport to nearby schools.

“The options were not accepted by the community and it was eventually decided to accommodate the learners at Bardale PS in the afternoons. This was at the community’s insistence. The representatives rejected all options, despite detailed explanations by WCED officials why platooning was not the best option.”

She said the department had confirmed its intention to erect a mobile school in the community. The land had been secured in principle and the Department of Transport and Public Works had processed an urgent request to lease the land from the City of Cape Town. The request was being processed by Council.

“In the interim the platooning will continue until the new mobile school is erected. The WCED has met with the parents and interest groups in the community and is keeping all stakeholders informed of progress to secure the land. The WCED intends to start erecting the mobile school as soon as permission to proceed is received from council. The school is currently hosted in the building of Bardale Primary School with its own principal, teachers and staff. Bardale Primary School starts at 07h30 in the morning ending at 1pm and Parliament Street Primary starts at 13h15 to 6pm,” said Shelver.

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TOPICS:  Education

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