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Tue Dec 06 16:02:49 CAT 2016

Strand kids excited as new school opens

Aarti J Narsee, Shenaaz Jamal and Sipho Masombuka | 2016-01-14 00:18:10.0
LET US IN! Pupils queue on the first day of school at the new ACJ Phakade Primary in Nomzamo, Strand, yesterday
Image by: ESA ALEXANDER

There were tears and yawns but mostly excitement as children in the Strand had their first day at a brand-new school yesterday.

For years ACJ Phakade Primary in Nomzamo was plagued by poor classrooms and hygiene, as well as staff shortages.

But it started the new academic year in a R37-million building, one of eight opened yesterday by the Western Cape education department.

The building was planned after the department described conditions at the old school as "unacceptable and disturbing".

"When I joined the school, things were haphazard. Conditions were not conducive for learning," said principal Thobile Majingo.

"We faced a lot of challenges with things like overflowing toilets. The classroom conditions were too hot in summer and in winter we experienced floods."

The first day of the new year began smoothly yesterday, with only a few hiccups as pupils were placed in colourfully painted classrooms. The school offers mother-tongue instruction for Xhosa-speaking pupils.

Grade R pupil Kuyole Raga, 5, spent most of the morning with his face buried in his mother's dress, daunted by his new classroom.

Parents desperate to place their children in school queued outside, but despite being designed for 1 200 pupils it has already accepted 1 346.

"We are overcrowded already. We succumbed to the pressure of some parents and have to accommodate at least 45 learners per class," said Majingo.

Jessica Shelver, spokesman for education MEC Debbie Schäfer, could not confirm how many children had not been placed in schools in the province.

"Only once we have determined the areas, ages and grades of the learners can we find spaces in schools that still have accommodation, order new mobile classrooms and find new sites on which to place them," she said.

Meanwhile the Gauteng department of education has 48 hours to accommodate almost 17 000 pupils in grades one to eight.

MEC Panyaza Lesufi imposed the deadline so that classes can start on Monday.

To accommodate the extra pupils, the department intended instructing schools to add five extra pupils per class.

The instruction could face criticism from some parents who pay extra at former model C schools to ensure low teacher-pupil ratios.

But a Supreme Court of Appeal judgment gave the power to the provincial government to determine whether a school was full, saying "schools must be managed in the interest of the broader community".

Education psychologist Kobus Maree said it was unacceptable that a high number of pupils had still not been placed. " The department fails to be proactive each year and the same problems recur."

Additional reporting by Katharine Child

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