Threat of school shutdown

Masibambane Secondary School.

Angry parents are threatening to shut down all Kraaifontein schools on Friday if the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) fails to meet their demands.

Tensions were high in the Bloekombos community last week when more than 100 pupils were denied access to Masibambane Secondary School.

Parents claimed that the school could not accommodate pupils who failed grades 8 to 11 because the school was already overcrowded and more than 200 Grade 8 pupils were accepted.

However, WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said the pupils which the school could not accommodate were all Grade 8 pupils who were all on the waiting list.

She said pupils who were repeating the grade had been placed in classes.

“Most of the learners who are not placed are late applications,” she said.

Parents and pupils marched down the Old Paarl Road last Wednesday, January 22, and Thursday, January 23.

Some Bloekombos High School pupils joined them.

Community leader, Linda Phito said it was unfortunate that learning had to come to a halt during the protests but “it seems to be the only thing that helps.”

He said parents had given the WCED a deadline for Friday, January 31, to produce a short-term and long-term plan to curb overcrowding at the school.

Mr Phito threatened that failing this there would be a shutdown of all schools in Kraiifontein, including primary schools.

“We are requesting that temporary classes be installed at the school as a short-term plan and then later on they should build more classes to accommodate learners.”

If not, he said, the WCED should be responsible for finding an alternative school for pupils.

“We are also blaming our principals who accept learners, knowing that it will be problematic when they return to school but things like this are not considered,” he said.

Mr Phito said there was a shortage of teachers with more than 40 pupils per class, which was also a concern for parents.

“I don’t want to make this about race but it seems that the WCED does not care about poorer schools and black schools.”

He said pupils were sent home without work to catch up on and were roaming the streets.

Parent Zanele Gxokwe said she became concerned when children, dressed in school uniform, were sent home on Tuesday.

“They were told that the school does not have space for them and they must move to another school.”

She said some pupils applied late and couldn’t be considered but said there were no other schools to accommodate them because they were too overcrowded.

“We want to negotiate for temporary classrooms as soon as possible because the learners, especially those in matric, have not started with classes yet,” she said.

When Northern News visited the school on Friday, more than 200 parents queued outside the office of principal, Rajan Naidoo. He could not speak to Northern News as he explained to parents that there were cut-off dates for enrolling pupils at a school.

Ms Hammond said the department was assessing pupil numbers at each of the high schools in the area, as well as classroom availability and teaching posts.

“Last year 10 mobile classrooms were placed at Bloekombos High School as a result of overcrowding. An assessment therefore needs to be made in terms of needs,” she said.

Ms Hammond said the disruption to teaching and learning was not the answer.

“We will do what we can to try accommodate those unplaced as soon as possible, but we need to ensure that we have the right information to make informed decisions on placement and resourcing.”