Pupils left in limbo

Some pupils who don't have chairs lay flat on the floor during lessons.

An unregistered school has opened its doors in Joe Slovo and those running it are determined to stay.

When schools opened last month, the gates to the old Sinenjongo High School, which had stood vacant for the last few months, were swung wide open and parents welcomed to register their children who had been unable to find space in nearby schools.

A group of community leaders met with Tabletalk at the school, just off Freedom Way, last week. One of them, Sugar Nginaza, said the community faced a crisis, as the education system was failing them.

“There is only one other primary school in Joe Slovo and that’s Marconi Beam Primary. Their waiting list is up to three years long and their classes are already overcrowded,” said Mr Nginaza.

The unregistered school, he explained, also had the advantage of being well located.

“Our people don’t have money, so they can’t afford taxi fare for their children to travel to Dunoon or wherever.”

Pupils range from Grade R to Grade 8 and are taught by 15 volunteers who, according to the community leaders, have teacher qualifications but are unemployed.

When Tabletalk did a walkabout at the school, which does not have a name as yet, class was in session.

In some classes, pupils were writing in their books using the seats of their chairs as desk tops while they sat or kneeled on the floor.

In other classes, pupils were lying flat on their bellies with their books spread out in front of them.

One of the volunteers, who did not want to be named, said most of the pupils were using one book to write down all their notes, and that was confusing for them because all their notes for different subjects were scrambled together.

Another community leader, Siyabonga Matika, said he knew of people who had materials ready to build shacks on the site once it was empty.

“I also know of someone who wants to build a tavern here, but I feel every child deserves an education and the infrastructure is already here. We want government to subsidise us,” said Mr Matika.

Western Cape Education Department (WCED) spokeswoman Jessica Shelver said the site was not a school and any education taking place there would not be formally recognised.

“The WCED leased the site temporarily from the City of Cape Town to accommodate learners from Sinenjongo High School while completing a replacement school across the road. The temporary site was recently vacated due to the completion of the new school.

“The cessation of the lease between the WCED and the City of Cape Town has meant that the mobile units have already been earmarked for schools to relieve pressure. Provision will be made for any learner of compulsory school-going age at nearby schools,” said Ms Shelver.

Volunteers at the school told Tabletalk there were more than 900 children attending the school, but Ms Shelver said there were estimated to be about 260 pupils at the site, many of whom had no birth certificates.

“Parents are requested to bring their children physically for registration, together with documentary evidence of the dates of birth and previous school report, so that officials can assist in placing them in the correct grades,” she said.

She said parents should work with the district officials to ensure their children were enrolled at nearby schools.

“This again just highlights the challenges that we face as a department when dealing with late registrations in our province. These challenges are made even greater by the concentrated areas into which pupils migrate at short notice, and the ever-increasing budgetary constraints,” said Ms Shelver.

Tabletalk asked Marconi Beam Primary School principal Bukelwa Plaatjies how long her school’s waiting list was and whether she thought there was a need for a second primary school in the area.

However she declined to comment and referred Tabletalk to the WCED.