Teachers threaten to strike

SOYISO MALITI

Teachers at Enkululekweni Primary School in Wallacedene have vowed to go on strike this morning because they believe the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) has failed to deal with overcrowding at the school.

On Tuesday March 15, the teachers were unwavering in their determination to protest at 8am this morning, despite assurances from the department that it was prepared to meet with them at the school today.

Two teachers who spoke to the Northern News said they taught classes of 60 pupils and this placed an enormous strain on them. They said the huge workload meant it would be impossible to issue pupils with their progress reports when the first term ends later this month.

The teachers said WCED officials had visited the school in January and “begged” it to accept more pupils so that pupils would not end up “staying at home”.

In return, the teachers claim, the WCED promised to add more staff and supply six mobile classrooms to the school before the end of the first term. The department had also promised to divide the school in two to create more room. However, none of these promises had materialised with the result that classrooms were so crowded several pupils had to sit or lie on the floor to see the board. “We can’t reach all of the pupils for one-on-ones,” said one of the teachers.

In a statement, Jessica Shelver, Education MEC Debbie Schäfer’s spokeswoman, confirmed the WCED had met with the teachers in January to discuss accommodating pupils, but she denied any promises had been made about providing extra teachers or mobile classrooms. Instead, she said, the department had “instructed the school not to enrol more children than they could accommodate”.

She said the principal had at no stage applied for additional posts which gave the impression the school had enough teaching staff.“WCED officials did undertake to consider and explore the possibility of dividing the school into two, which would require additional mobiles, furniture, staff and teaching posts,” said Ms Shelver. However, it had been decided that such a move would not be “financially feasible” due to “severe budget constraints”.

She said the WCED had told the teachers that a new primary school for Wallacedene was being planned for the 2016/2017 financial year, which was expected to ease overcrowding in the area. Meanwhile, the school’s governing body (SGB) has backed the teachers. Its chairman Lindile Fountain said the SGB had been at the January meeting when the WCED officials made the promises, which, he claimed, the department was now reneging on.