Residents demand new school

SOUTH AFRICA - Cape Town - 12 May 2019 - Western Cape Education Department threatened to take legal action should teachers and parents continue to shut down Bloekombos Secondary School in Kraaifontein.Disgruntled parents and pupils locked the school gates yesterday, protesting against overcrowding, with some classes currently accommodating 80 pupils, and demanded a new high school to be built in the area and now 4 high school has joined the Protest Bloekombos High School Masibambane High School Wallacedene High and Hector Peterson High School.Photographer Ayanda Ndamane/African NewsAgency (ANA)

Bloekombos Secondary School reopened temporarily yesterday while parents and pupils suspended protests demanding a new school.

This comes after protests over overcrowding at the school erupted in the community last Wednesday, May 15, forcing the school to close.

According to Jessica Shelver, the spokeswoman for Education MEC Debbie Schafer, the school can accommodate only 1 200 pupils but 2113 are enrolled, with 70 to 80 pupils in a class.

Ms Shelver said the principal had failed to comply with an instruction to not admit more pupils in 2018, for 2019.

“By increasing the numbers to such an extent unfortunately impacts the quality of education, affecting the learners that should ultimately be registered at the school in terms of their capacity.”

Would parents’ demands for a new school be met? Ms Shelver said: “No, a new high school (Kraaifontein High School) had opened in the community this year, and the school is able to accommodate the surplus learners.”

But the community says that’s not good enough. And more schools joined the protest on Thursday, including Masibambane Secondary School, Wallacedene High School and Hector Pietersen High. Classes at those schools resumed by Friday, but Bloekombos Secondary parents and pupils continued to protest.

In a heated meeting between the Metro East Education District and community leader Linda Phito on Monday May 20, temporary solutions were discussed.

With June exams starting this week, Mr Phito said pupils would return to school, while some of them would write at Kraaifontein High School in Scottsdene.

He said: “We have laid down short-term and long-term solutions. We want temporary classrooms placed at the school, and in future, a new school must be built close to Bloekombos.”

Mr Phito said parents were unhappy that their children had to go to Kraaifontein High School considering the language barrier.

“Our children speak IsiXhosa while those pupils speak Afrikaans, this will become a difficult task for teachers who cannot speak our mother language,” he said.

Crime is another worry for parents.

“The lives of learners would be in danger as gangsters dominate those areas. Our children would also be late for school; many things were not considered,” Mr Phito said.

An overcrowded classroom was a painful thing to see, he said.

“As a community leader, I am pained that the school is overcrowded. This shows that there is a willingness to learn.”

As the bell rang, pupils shoved through the door to get a seat first before their peers, he said.

“Imagine being in an overcrowded school, and you urgently need to use the toilet. By the time you want to do your business, the period would be over or your break time is up.This is disgusting,” he said.

When Northern News visited the school on Friday May 17, teachers and the school principal were sitting in their parked cars outside the school gates.

A teacher – who did not want to be named, fearing victimisation – said all teachers had reported for duty, but protesters had threatened “there will be trouble” if the staff did not keep the gates locked.

Principal Makhosini Maci refused to speak to the media while standing outside the school gate.

Responding to further questions from Northern News, Ms Shelver said the WCED was trying to find ways to accommodate pupils at other schools but building a new high school near Bloekombos was not an option.

“The land next to Bloekombos Secondary School is going to be used for a much-needed primary school. It would also not make sense to build another high school there due to the fact that a new school (Kraaifontein High) – with brand new facilities – can expand in terms of learner growth,” she said.