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Back-to-school blues in some parts of SA

12 January 2022 - 17:56
Tlhatlogang Junior Secondary School pupils react at morning assembly on January 12 2022.
Tlhatlogang Junior Secondary School pupils react at morning assembly on January 12 2022.
Image: Alon Skuy

The first day of school on Wednesday was not a memorable one for almost 800 pupils in Mpumalanga who were forced to resume lessons in mobile classrooms instead of their new R46.2m school.

Citing safety concerns, the parent representatives on the governing body of Yinhle Lentfo Primary in Masoyi, Mpumalanga, refused to allow pupils to move into the new premises until dense bush bordering the property is cleared.

Clement Banele, chairperson of the governing body, said they expressed their concerns to the provincial education department in November.

At the time, Mpumalanga education department spokesperson Jasper Zwane said it would be safe to relocate the pupils to the new facility when schools reopened in January.

Banele said a decision was taken at a meeting of the governing body on Tuesday that pupils will only be allowed to move into the new buildings once the bush was cleared and a fence erected.

“Officials from public works and the department’s infrastructure section as well as the school’s management team will be meeting the governing body next Thursday.”

The department requested the principal to send photographs of the new school last Friday and she was informed that she must deal with the problem of the bush.

“She was told to use the education assistants and the general assistants to clear the bush and money from the school’s maintenance budget must be used.”

Banele said the school had limited resources and a bulldozer would be needed to clear the bush.

“We will meet parents after next Thursday’s meeting to hear their views on the matter.”

Zwane did not respond to media queries at the time of publication.

All Gauteng students will be placed by end of January: Lesufi

Meanwhile, Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said on Wednesday that less than 700 pupils still need to be placed.

“Last year during this period we had almost 35,000 pupils unplaced. We managed to place them by the end of March,” he said.

“I want to assure parents that the 700 we need to place, as the department we are making a commitment to place them before the end of January.”

Parents preferred certain schools “and therefore we clog the system with those particular schools”.

“We are building beautiful schools in the townships, but there’s the mentality that the township is bad and the former Model C schools are good. The reality is there is no teacher that is trained differently.”

Lesufi said it was a struggle to change people’s mentality that “township education can be quality education”.

“It’s a huge task to change the mentality of people that want to apply at a certain school in town purely because they love the school uniform of that school.”

Late stationary for Eastern Cape pupils

When schools reopen for Eastern Cape pupils next Wednesday, tens of thousands will receive their stationery late because of budgetary constraints.   

Thembani Mtyida, acting deputy director-general for institutional operations management in the Eastern Cape education department, said in a circular dated January 12 that schools were requested to use some of the stationery provided last year.

A total of 1,614 schools will receive their stationery from January 12 to 25 while 3,196 schools will receive theirs later in January and in February.

Textbooks will be delivered to all schools between March and May.

Mtyida said funds were made available for pupil and teacher support materials in December after steps to resolve the budget shortfall resulted in talks with the department of basic education and the provincial treasury.

“This meant procurement processes could only resume at this time with some of the key role players already winding up for the December vacation and hence the department was able to fully and effectively embark on the processes in January 2022.”

The available budget meant the department could not afford to provide all the textbooks requisitioned by schools.

New schools and new grades will be provided with textbooks while top-up textbooks will be provided to grade 12 pupils.

Reacting to the textbook problem, Jaco Deacon, CEO of the Federation of Governing Bodies of SA Schools (Fedsas), said: “We condemn this poor planning and demand that there should be consequences for the leadership in the province. We cannot allow adults in senior, high-paid positions to gamble with the future of the pupils in the province.

“Where is the oversight from the provincial government and national department?

“How can you tell pupils they must return to school in January but will only get textbooks between March and May? It is unacceptable and the minister must intervene without delay.”

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