Overcrowding becoming “the norm” in some Western Cape schools

Provincial education department says it is under severe strain

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Over 50 children have to be accommodated in classes built for 35 at Emvumelwano Primary School in Wallacedene, Kraaifontein. Photo: Vincent Lali

Teachers are struggling to cope with overcrowded classrooms at Emvumelwano Primary School in Wallacedene, Kraaifontein. Classes have over 50 children; 35 would be normal.

Last year the school admitted 1,400 learners, but it increased the number to 1,666 this year, according to deputy principal Lungelo Ntloko.

“We are short-staffed. The number of learners has increased, but the department is not providing the school with more teachers,” he said.

“This year we have Grade 4E, which we didn’t have in previous years. Now the classroom needs a class teacher who will control learners,” he said.

He said the school needs five teachers and prefab classrooms to teach and accommodate the extra learners.

“The department has not increased the amount of food yet to cater for the extra number of learners, but we feed everyone for now. We fear that the food may run out,” said Ntloko. “In each class there are slow and fast learners and teachers must give slow ones more attention. Teachers can’t do that in overcrowded classrooms.”

Natural Science teacher Mncedisi Mnyengeza said he teaches a class of 51 learners. “It’s difficult to teach such a large number of learners because I can’t interact with all of them … You are never sure if the learners sitting at the back are listening.”

“Kids are taking advantage of the crowded conditions. They pretend to write, but I find that they are not writing when I look closely,” said Mnyengezana. “When you ask if they understand, they say yes, but they fail when you test them.”

Vusumzi Yola, a Social Science and Life Skills teacher, said, “My colleagues and I struggle to cope with the workload and go home exhausted after school. We want the department to step in and help.”

Nora Tafafeni, chairperson of the school governing body, said: “The department neither builds new schools nor gives us resources though it says that we as parents must ensure that kids go to school.”

Mxolisi Mngxunyeni, chairman of Ward 101 Education Sector, said community leaders had placed hundreds of learners at Ekuthuleni Primary School and Bloekombos Primary School.

“We have crammed learners into various schools until they became jam-packed. Now some kids sit on the floor,” he said.

“After the officials asked us to find an open space where it could set up temporary classrooms, we identified a space at Bloekombos High School. We are still talking to the school,” he said.

“Our system is under severe strain”

Jessica Shelver, spokesperson for the provincial department of education, said, “Unfortunately overcrowding is becoming the norm in some schools across the province … Our system is under severe strain.”

“More than 130,000 learners have relocated to the Western Cape from other provinces and countries over the past five years, mainly from the Eastern Cape … A total of 21,962 learners relocated to the Western Cape last year, representing a cost of about R338 million.”

She said, “Continued growth in numbers without additional funding from the National treasury to cover these costs means that we have to stretch the budget more thinly across the whole system.”

She said Wallacedene Primary received many late applications and agreed to accommodate the learners temporarily until 18 mobile classes are erected on the Bloekombos HS site.

Equal Education slams budget

Education activists have slammed Wednesday’s budget. In a statement released on Thursday morning, Equal Education wrote: “The provincial Education Infrastructure Grant (EIG) will be reduced from R10.046 billion in 2017 to R9.918 billion in 2018. Similarly, the School Infrastructure Backlog Grant (SIBG), which funds the nationally administered Accelerated Schools Delivery Initiative (ASIDI), will be slashed from R2.595 billion in 2017 to R1.321 billion in 2018.”

By contrast, tertiary education received a massive boost in order to subsidise a large percentage of university students. “The desperately-needed investment in higher education, is at the expense of the basic education system,” wrote Equal Education. “The 2018/19 budget places a disproportionate burden on the poor, in order to plug a shortfall that is a consequence of the destruction of State institutions, including the South African Revenue Service (SARS).”

TOPICS:  Education Tertiary Education

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