The penny drops for department

2013-02-03 10:00

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Eastern Cape education to tackle overcrowding.

Despite initially insisting there was no overcrowding at a school with 153 pupils in one class, the Eastern Cape education department has finally admitted to a massive problem.

Last week, City Press reported massive staff shortages at Flagstaff’s Meyisi Senior Secondary School, where 153 pupils in Grade 10B also had no teachers for a number of subjects, including for maths and isiXhosa.

The school of over 900 pupils has nine teachers and two temporary teachers, a situation blamed on the department’s refusal to hire temporary teachers.

Early this week, department spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima said there was no overcrowding at the school.

But on Friday he changed his tune, saying that the overcrowding was caused by the school’s principal, who had “overadmitted” pupils.

Mtima said following the City Press report, district officials were sent to investigate and found overcrowding to be a problem.

“The principal has overadmitted. We spoke to him, because we regard him as the CEO of the school, about the dangers of overadmitting learners and the consequences,” he said.

The principal declined to comment.

Mtima said pupils from Meyisi Senior Secondary will now be moved to surrounding schools – Mdutshane, Walter Cingo and Langa Senior Secondary Schools.

A teacher at Meyisi, who asked not to be named for fear of victimisation, said he doubted this would help as those schools are far away from the pupils’ homes and no scholar transport had been organised.

Mtima insisted the department would transfer the pupils, but could not say how many.

“All I know is that the school has over 900 learners. Some of these would have to be moved. That process has already started. There is no way there can be enough contact time and proper learning in such an environment. That is why the department had to intervene swiftly,” he said.

Mtima said teacher shortages were being addressed.

“The province is currently doing an audit. There are many other schools that have shortages of teachers,” he said.

Meanwhile, the DA has told of another school in the province with a similar problem.

Dumsi Senior Secondary School in Ntabankulu has more than 100 children in a class.

It had eight teacher vacancies in 2010, 12 in 2011, and 17 in 2012.

The school’s pass rate dropped from 50.8% in 2010 to 30.1% in 2011 and to 19.5% in 2012.

“All the main subjects, including maths, English, geography, science and accounting are barely taught at the school by seven teachers left to teach 753 learners,” said DA provincial education spokesperson Edmund van Vuuren.

Van Vuuren said he visited the school last Thursday as part of an oversight meeting of the provincial legislature’s education committee.

“The school’s situation is a further sign that the education department’s decision to withhold temporary teacher appointments is severely affecting schools across the province,” Van Vuuren said.

Many schools in Lusikisiki district are battling to cope with class sizes of between 120 and 140, district officials have confirmed.

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