Equal Education deplores conditions in some WCape schools

2016-09-20 22:15
The pupils camped outside Schafer's home. (Equal Education, Twitter)

The pupils camped outside Schafer's home. (Equal Education, Twitter)

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Cape Town - Pupils handed the results of a social audit on conditions at schools in the Western Cape to government officials on Tuesday, along with a list of demands.

A copy of Equal Education’s 185-page report titled “Of Loose Papers and Vague Allegations” was handed to Education MEC Debbie Schafer, Social Development MEC Albert Fritz, Safety and Security MEC Dan Plato, and provincial deputy police commissioner Thembekile Patekile.

The report documented their findings on safety and sanitation in some of the province's schools. It was a follow-up to a protest outside Schafer's house in June.

The audit of 244 schools serving 217 388 pupils produced “disturbing” results on the state of safety, and sanitation at Western Cape schools, EE said in the report, which was based on interviews with pupils.

The findings include:

- Pupils feel unsafe at school and going to or from school. They want increased police patrols along their routes home and for the transport department to arrange late transport for those who have to stay on for extra-mural activities;

- Pupils at 83% of the schools sampled say teachers or principals beat them, even though corporal punishment is illegal. At schools which use corporal punishment, a weapon is used in 90% of the cases. Pupils are undermined by the people supposed to keep them safe when they try to report it;

- Lack of access control at schools facilitates violent crime. Only about half of school fences are considered sturdy enough to keep intruders out. Up to 42% have gaps or holes. EE quotes the province's own data which notes that R35.2m was lost to burglaries and vandalism between 2013 and 2015.

- More than half of the schools surveyed lack a full time security guard. One-third of schools surveyed do not have functional CCTV cameras;

- Discrimination is ''disturbingly'' common at school, by pupils and teachers, and is often based on gender, race, sexuality, language, and nationality;

- The Western Cape Education Department is making school governing bodies, principals and teachers responsible for safety. The safe schools programme employs 46 staff to serve more than 1600 schools. This means each district co-ordinator is responsible for more than 200 schools, and each field worker for 65 schools;

- Only one in four schools has sanitation infrastructure for disabled pupils. At 74% of schools, there is no toilet for people with disabilities. In rural schools this figure increases to 86%.

- More than half of pupils attending poorer schools report having no sanitary pads. The audit notes this is a reason why pupils miss school. Few schools provide bins for used sanitary towels, which is partly responsible for clogged toilets;

- More than a quarter of pupils surveyed say their schools do not have toilet paper. Four in five say there is no soap;

- The WCED has said it will not upgrade schools on private land;

- 21% of pupils surveyed say their school does not have a library, and 11% say the library is either locked, or used for something else;

- 8% say they are not allowed into the library because there is no librarian;

- 14% of pupils in rural areas say their schools do not have a computer lab;

- 25% of pupils say they have no access to sports fields, and 55% say their schools do not have a sports field.

The pupils demanded that Schafer report back to them by October 5, to show what steps she has taken to improve their conditions.

They wanted her to retract and apologise for a tweet in June, when pupils waited for her at her home to give her their report. Schafer said at the time that she was given piles of papers and notes that were difficult to make sense of.

She was criticised for walking past the pupils without speaking to them.

The report handed to her on Tuesday was a weighty, bound publication.

Schafer said she was “very pleased that we now finally have the report”. She said the department was looking for solutions, and although it had plans to upgrade schools, this took time and money.


Read more on:    cape town  |  education

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