MANY schools in Nelson Mandela Bay got off to a disastrous start on the first day of the new school year yesterday, with the Education Department admitting that its over-expenditure was “starting to bite”.
At many schools problems were attributed to the department, although other issues also raised their heads.
Parents protested at Colleen Glen Primary School over a lack of transport. At other schools, teaching could not start because there were not enough classrooms and desks, no textbooks and no stationery.
Colleen Glen Primary recorded a mere six pupils in attendance due to the department’s suspension of transport for schools.
More than 60 parents protested outside the school yesterday, demanding answers from the department.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Khumbulani High pupils were without classrooms, desks or textbooks.
Grade 10 and 11 pupils spent their first day at school walking around the fields of the Dagbreek Teachers’ Centre in Richmond Hill, while most of the Grade 12 classes – with the exception of three – were accommodated in the hall. Two Grade 9 classes spent the day sitting on benches in the corridors.
Khumbulani High had to be accommodated at the teachers’ centre and the Algoa College in Struandale in August after the school burnt down.
Khumbulani High principal Albert Tshanga said the Education Department had instructed him to move all 800-plus pupils to the teachers’ centre, but there was not enough space for them as nine district education officials were occupying offices there and had not yet been moved to the Algoa College.
“Some of the pupils who are in class lack desks because we only managed to salvage a few bits of furniture from the fire. We don’t have a computer lab, a library or textbooks, so we rely on photocopying textbooks for the pupils,” said Tshanga.
“We want to settle down and start teaching because this is going to affect the pupils’ pass rate. The teachers are despondent because they cannot move forward.”
Despite the school being destroyed three months before the matric exams last year, the pass rate increased by 10% from the previous year to 74%.
A Colleen Glen Primary father said his children were dressed and ready for school yesterday, but their bus did not arrive.
Sebenzile Fuku said: “We want the department to give us answers. Most of the parents are domestic workers and cannot afford to pay for the transport of their children. We don’t have the money.
“The department should have informed us they were going to stop the transport system last year already, and not simply spring it on us this year.
“We fear that if the kids are at home, they are going to get up to mischief. We will protest until we receive answers.”
A pupil who did arrive at school, Khanyiso Nyepha, who is in Grade 9, said he would have to look for a school closer to home if the transport situation was not sorted out.
It was a rocky start for the more than 700 pupils at VM Kwinana High School in Uitenhage, with pupils scrambling to find out to which class they had been allocated.
Most of the pupils who arrived on the first day hung around the school grounds and outside their classrooms, while some danced to music on a portable radio. Others simply went home.
Eastern Cape Health MEC Sicelo Gqobana visited the school as part of a fact-finding mission. The school has been without electricity since 2006, classrooms are in disrepair, there is no stationery and the staff is short of four temporary teachers.
Principal Mawonga Blou said he feared the school would collapse without the temporary teachers.
The four staff members taught critical subjects like engineering, graphic and mechanical design and consumer studies. These are called curriculum transfer subjects, designed to enable Grade 12 pupils to be employable in the labour market when they leave school.
“None of the other teachers at the school are trained to teach those subjects. “What makes matters worse is that one of the temporary teachers is supposed to teach Grade 12 mathematics.
The circumstances are not very conducive to learning. “The school is a health hazard and a disaster in the making,” Blou said.
A new building for the school is 90% complete, but pupils and staff have not yet been able to occupy it.
The department started work on it in 2007, but no completion date has been announced.
At many Section 20 schools, textbooks and stationery were unavailable following the department’s earlier tardiness in awarding a tender for these items.
The department has acknowledged its “bad situation”. Spokesman Loyiso Pulumani said in Bhisho: “The reality of our over-expenditure is starting to bite.”