Hundreds cram into a class

2015-01-21 00:00

FIVE hundred children in four ­classrooms.

As thousands of pupils return to schools across the province today, five-year-old Kholeka Mduba will fight for her place on the dusty floor of ­Vimbukhalo Primary School, set in the foothills of the central Drakensberg.

At Vimbukhalo, more than a hundred pupils from different grades can share the same class.

The provincial average for pupil:teacher ratio in 2012 was 31,2:1 according to Education For All’s 2013 country progress report.

Weathered desks, far outnumbered by hopeful children, stand like islands in the Vimbukhalo classrooms.

With no lights and no water, the rural school is at the bottom of the chasm that separates those who have from those who don’t.

Yesterday, neatly dressed Kholeka and her proud mother, Thuli Gumede (38), walked for an hour-and-a-half to register for Grade 1.

Although the pair were excited, ­Gumede said several promises had been made by various government ­departments to rebuild the school. The most recent was last year, when officials from the Department of Education ­visited the school and promised to ­rebuild it.

A year later nothing has ­happened.

“This is a good school but there is so much wrong with it. There aren’t enough chairs and desks for the ­children,” said Gumede.

Despite the school’s condition ­Gumede and her daughter were excited to be starting school today. “I used some of my grant money to buy her a new shirt and tie. A neighbour donated the school shoes because I couldn’t ­afford to buy new ones,” she said.

Gogo Thuleleni Dladla (59) said the community wants answers.

“This school is in a really bad state. When it rains, children come back covered in mud because they sit on the dusty floor,” said Dladla.

She said even though it is a no-fee school, “the children deserve better”.

“Last year there was a strike and the Department of Education came to the area and promised to build us a new school but nothing has happened,” said Dladla.

Ntombi Ndaba (52) said the community have no choice but to send their children to the school because it is the only school in the area.

“Five hundred children are crammed into four classrooms, there are three ­different grades sharing one classroom and the grade ones use a neighbour’s house as a classroom. It’s really bad,” said Ntambi.

Education spokesperson Muzi ­Mahlambi said education head ­Nkosinathi Sishi visited the school last year and decided that the school needed to be rebuilt.

“We promised to bring them prefabs and we did. We are going to start the reconstruction in the new financial year because there is no way that we can ­salvage the school,” said Mahlambi.

Department of Transport spokesperson Kwanele Ncalane said MEC Willies Mchunu visited the school last year as part of the ­legislature’s Schools Functionality Monitoring programme.

“As the Uthukela District champion, the MEC went there and discovered that there was overcrowding in the school.

“He informed the Department of ­Education and they followed up on the matter and the Department of Education promised to build a new school,” said Ncalane.

He said in the process of constructing a new school, the Department of Public Works discovered that the land that the school was situated on belonged to a family in the community.

“The family asked to be compensated and the department did not have that money and that is why the project has stalled. The department is still in talks with the parties involved.

“The MEC made no such promise [to rebuild the school], he only outlined the various processes that were going to take place in the community,” said Ncalane.


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