Our children are being taught in pigsties – archbishop

2013-04-25 08:50

The Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, said he was “devastated” by the conditions in an Eastern Cape school where 110 Grade 9 pupils share a classroom.

Makgoba led a delegation to inspect the challenges schools in the province face, including a chronic shortage of teachers, overcrowding, a lack of school furniture and textbooks.

The visit was facilitated by NGO Equal Education.

The bishop was particularly touched after visiting Putuma Junior Secondary School in the Mqanduli district where overcrowding is significant.

“I am sad. It is more hurting to see such levels of inequality and poor material conditions of the poorest of the poor. It is devastating,” Makgoba said.

He said the conditions in lower grades were especially disturbing.

The school has 1 175 learners and only 24 teachers.

Pupils from grade R to 9 sit on cement bricks because there is no school furniture.

The classrooms are filthy and desks and chairs are old and falling apart.

In Grade 9, there are 110 pupils crammed in a small classroom.

“I am disappointed that our children can learn in these conditions 20 years into the country’s freedom. This is unacceptable. They are being taught in pigsties,” Makgoba said.

He said no one was supposed to be educated in such terrible conditions and government needed to fix these problems.

South African Human Rights Commissioner Lindiwe Mokate, who was also part of the delegation, was disgusted.

“This is a mess. How are children supposed to learn in such conditions when three have to share a single desk? It’s disgusting. These children cannot reach their potential under such conditions,” she said.

In Grade 2 140 learners share a class.

Grade 5 teacher Nontando Nongalo has 110 learners in her class.

She says she was once hit on the foot by a brick, which fell from one of the desks as she was teaching.

“It’s a dangerous place to work,” she said.

She says it becomes unbearable in the classroom when hot.

Grade 5 pupil Zonke Ngcoza (12) said her school was not suitable for learning.

“I am not proud to be a learner of this school. We sit on bricks and sometimes even fight over these bricks because it’s the only thing we can use to sit on,” Zonke said.

School principal Babalwa Mtumtum said the school’s existing toilets were appalling.

The 1 175 learners have to share 14 toilets and the 24 teachers make do with only two toilets.

“We would really like the department to build us a new school. This one is falling apart,” she said.

Mtumtum said they were last provided with school furniture by the department in 1995.

The school has been buying its own furniture, which is destroyed quickly due to the large number of learners.

Professor Pierre de Vos of the law faculty at the University of Cape Town, which was part of the delegation, said the Department of Basic Education needed to be held accountable for its failures.

“This is terrible. I would not want to be a learner in these conditions. I am wondering why 20 years after apartheid we still have this problem. If I was the minister of basic education, I wouldn’t sleep peacefully at night, knowing what the conditions that prevail in these schools are,” he said.

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