The worst school in SA

2018-01-14 06:14
The provincial education department says it is going to try to figure out ‘why the school still exists’. Picture: Lubabalo Ngcukana

The provincial education department says it is going to try to figure out ‘why the school still exists’. Picture: Lubabalo Ngcukana

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Parents of children at one of the country’s worst-performing schools – where all the matrics failed their final exams last year – are livid that the department of basic education is contemplating closing it down.

All 17 pupils who wrote matric failed. Isivivane Senior Secondary School is in the Chris Hani West education district, near Queenstown, and is one of two schools in the Eastern Cape and seven around the country that scored a 0% matric pass last year.

Many residents of nearby Rhodani village question the government’s motives for wanting to shut it down. Villagers view it as a quick fix and accuse the provincial education department of wanting to avoid taking responsibility.

They insist the reason the school’s pupils failed was because they have had no maths, physical science, agriculture and geography teachers for years. The school has four teachers, including the principal, Linda Ntlanganiso.

He told City Press that it was the only high school in the area and it currently has 106 pupils enrolled.

“Yes, there are a low number of pupils. But if you close down this only school, what are you saying about the future of these children? All that we need to turn the situation around is at least four more teachers. If we can get that, I guarantee you, these children will pass,” he said.

As well as the teacher shortage, Ntlanganiso said the dismal results were because many pupils did not attend classes.

“I am very disappointed. I thought at least 12 out of the 17 would pass, but it was not to be. At least the 12 have a chance to write supplementary exams.

“Since I arrived here in April 2016, the department has promised to redeploy temporary teachers to us. We are still waiting for them. The problem is mostly human resources, even though we don’t have things such as a library or computer and science laboratories. But if they can bring teachers, our school will turn around,” said Ntlanganiso.

However, provincial education department head Themba Kojana said there was no point in “disadvantaging pupils” by keeping them in an underperforming school.

“We are going to investigate why the school is not performing when is has so few pupils enrolled. That is why we talk of unviable schools. If you have 17 pupils in matric, it means that the school is not viable. I think there will be intervention. We are going to follow up on that to find out why the school still exists,” Kojana said.

Parents have vowed to stop attempts to shut down the school, which locals established in 1992.

Nongamsithi Tyolwana (63) has two grandchildren at the school and is vehemently opposed to its closure. She blames the school’s failures on the department. One of her grandchildren, Ludwe Bukhwele (20), was one of the 17 matrics who failed.

“The department has failed our children. How are they supposed to pass when they have no teachers in all the subjects every year? We built the school with our bare hands because there was no high school in the village. We then handed the school to the government to provide it with the relevant facilities. They can’t do the simplest of things like employ teachers,” she said.

“If they shut down the school, what is supposed to happen to our children? Where are they going to be educated?”

Bukhwele said he and his 16 classmates spent the entire year without teachers for maths, geography, life science, physical science, life orientation and agriculture.

“I wanted to be a farmer and now I have failed. I am disappointed and ashamed. I think that, if we had teachers in these subjects, I would have passed and fulfilled my dream. We tried to study on our own, but it was clearly not enough,” he said.

“I don’t know what I am going to do this year. I still want to go to school, but in a different place where there is real education, not what we were exposed to at Isivivane.”

Nosakhiwo Jibilika (51), the treasurer of the school governing body, said that because there were no teachers, parents had to fork out R100 per child a month so they could appoint informal teachers from the area – residents who had passed matric themselves – to teach the children. The school has three of these informal teachers who help the four permanent appointments.

Nosakhiwo Jibilika, treasurer of the school governing body at Isivivane, says parents have to pay informal teachers to help

“Parents are in deep trouble here. All it means is that there is no free basic education in our village. If, for instance, a parent has five children at the school, it means she has to pay R500 a month to pay these informal teachers to teach their children,” she said.

“We are doing this because we are desperate. We want our children to be educated. It is painful to watch our children’s future being played with like this. Government has turned its back on us.”

Unemployed Thobile Sindaphi (51), who has a child in Grade 10 at the school, said that if he had the means, he would send his child to another school, but these were too far away.

A former principal at the school, Headman Qwaka, resigned in frustration in 2014 because he had no teachers. He said he was disappointed that they scored the worst results in the province.

“I was a principal in that school; it never received 0%. At some point, I had a 65% and 70% pass rate. I never had a maths teacher or physics teacher at the school. When I arrived in 1997, there was no mathematics at all. I introduced it myself. I used to take pupils who had passed at St James High School [in Cofimvaba], which has a good track record in maths, but who could not afford to go to universities, and pay them R1 500 to teach at the school. Pupils would pass,” he said.

“I partnered with other schools and introduced night classes and asked teachers from other schools to teach at night.”

When he arrived at the school, there were only 35 pupils. When he left, there were more than 200.

“I resigned due to the stress of not having teachers, especially in maths. I had been fighting the department since 1997. Until I left, there was no maths teacher.”

He said that, when parents failed to pay the informal teachers, he did so out of his own pocket.

Qwaka now spends his time at home tending to his small farm.

Read more on:    education  |  youth

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