Squeezing the joy out of learning and teaching

2018-01-28 06:00
Sehushe Commercial School principal Tobeka Bokveld speaks about the frustration of having an overcrowded school. Picture: Lubabalo Ngcukana

Sehushe Commercial School principal Tobeka Bokveld speaks about the frustration of having an overcrowded school. Picture: Lubabalo Ngcukana

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Overcrowding at Sehushe Commercial School near Mthatha in the Eastern Cape is so bad that teachers give classes to some grades under trees.

Principal Tobeka Bokveld said that, although the school has had an average pass rate of 70% in the past few years, it does not have enough resources.

She said attempts to get the provincial education department to provide more classrooms have failed.

“We are told that, because the school is on private land, the government cannot build fixed structures on someone’s property,” Bokveld said.

The school has 834 pupils and 25 teachers who are crammed into 11 functional classrooms. That’s about 75 children a class and about 33 children to one teacher.

Bokveld said Grade 11C was the most overcrowded class, with 85 pupils squeezed into one classroom, followed by 11A with 72 pupils.

Grades 11B and 11D had 67 pupils in each class. This means that it is impossible to give each child individual attention.

She said it was mainly a commercial school focusing on maths and accounting.

Last year’s matric class achieved a pass rate of 72.5%, despite the overcrowding.

The school has asked for mobile classrooms, but the department had been reluctant to help, she said.

School governing body treasurer Nokuthula Maqeda said parents were on a fundraising drive to raise at least R19 000 to buy a single mobile classroom.

“It hurts us as parents to see our children learning under such bad conditions.

“The temperatures have been very high since the school reopened, meaning pupils find it hard to pay attention in class because of the heat, which is worsened by the overcrowding,” Maqeda said.

“Three children have to share a desk meant for two or one. We are appealing to the department, or to any private sponsor, to help. We are in dire need of these essential resources.”

School governing body secretary Tobela Jiyana said the school was the pride of the local village of Corona because it got good results, despite the limited resources.

“The school has no computer or science laboratory and library. Our pupils and teachers are doing their best under difficult circumstances to produce results better than the average provincially,” Jiyana said.

Bokveld said the department was paying rent for the school to the landowners, but she could not say how much.

With a mobile classroom, she said they would be able to split the overcrowded classes to have more manageable numbers of children.

She said she was worried about this year’s Grade 12 class, which had doubled to 75 pupils, compared with 37 last year.

This was because the school’s performance had caught the attention of parents in neighbouring villages.

She said that should mobile structures be secured, the priority would be to split Grade 12 into two classrooms.

“It’s too much work for our teachers. There is ill discipline among pupils when they are overcrowded, because it’s not easy to monitor all of them,” she said.

Malibongwe Mtima, spokesperson for the department of education in the Eastern Cape, said government’s hands were tied when it came to the issue of Sehushe Commercial School because it was situated on private property.

He said there was a dire need for a public high school in the area and the department was in the process of identifying land where a new school could be built.

From April, department officials would start talks with the municipality, traditional leaders and the community to establish a new school.

Read more on:    education

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