40 years on – still no quality public education!

Learners joining #FeesMustFall protests in Cape Town, 2015. Photos: Mzi Velapi.

1976 marks the year when students in Soweto and throughout the country stood up against the apartheid regime and fought for quality education.
2016: fast-forward 40 years, the dream of public quality education has not been realized after 22 years of democracy. Elitsha has been consistently covering stories about the lack of quality public education. From Ikhwezi Lesizwe Primary school in Khayelitsha to Gordon Primary school in Alexandra township in Johannesburg to Chubekile Senior Secondary School in Kwa-Zakhele in Port Elizabeth.

Khayelitsha, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

No quality education at No Fee schools

Empty bookshelves in the library at Ikhwezi Lesizwe Primary. Photo: Phumeza Mdekazi.

We recently visited Ikhwezi Lesizwe primary school in the E Section of Khayelitsha.

The school has 25 classes. Each class has about 40 learners per teacher making it not conducive for quality education to take place. In summer, the classes are extremely hot. It is a no fee school in quintile 2. This means that the department pays for most school needs and they have to ask for sponsorship from big companies. There are 80 no fee schools in the Metro East Education District of the Western Cape.

Norma Mayeye, the school principal told us that the car manufacturing company, BMW has donated computers for the school library and the whiteboard that the older students get to use sometimes.

The school does not have any sports facilities and has to look for other creative ways to make sure that the learners have something to do. At the back of the school, there is a piece of land that is used as a soccer field.  Two classrooms are now being used as a hall where the children have dancing lessons. The department has promised to fix the school building but now the foundation of the building is falling apart.

No sports or extra-curricula facilities

Gordon primary school was recently crowned junior rugby champs despite the lack of sports facilities at the school. Former Model C schools which are better resourced also took part in the tournament.

There are no sports facilities at the school and the children train on a concrete floor area behind the classrooms – an area that is also used for morning prayers. The area is small and not conducive for rugby or any sport for that matter.

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The school might be champions but according to its head of sports, Henry Khoza, the preparation for the tournament was difficult because they don’t have fields to train on. “We have a quad where we normally hold our assemblies but we use it after school for practice and it affects us a lot like when our learners have to compete on a full ground. They do struggle as they are used to training on our small quad and usually they easily get tired”.

Khoza said that the lack of space is the main reason that they do not have sports fields. “Here in Alexandra we do not have land, that’s why you see schools are built like prisons”.

The school has to use Alex High fields which has its own challenges according to Khoza. “Just imagine if you are taking children outside of school premises and get children knocked down by a car? It also frustrates the kids if they do not train after school”, said Khoza.

The 104 year-old township is overpopulated, heavily congested and plagued by rats.

Schools with no furniture

Chubekile Senior Secondary School pupils have to sit on cold floors, balancing their exercise books on their knees to write as they don’t have school furniture. (Pics: WWMP)

Earlier this year, the Mthatha High Court ordered the Department of Education to set up a “furniture task team” for embattled Eastern Cape schools and to supply all their required furniture by April next year. It was the fourth court order to be made in the furniture saga that has been plaguing schools in the province for years. Chubekile Secondary School in KwaZakhele was built in 2007 and only got furniture at the beginning of 2016.  Before that, of the 714 pupils in 2015, only 120 of them were able to sit properly and there were about 12 classes with no proper desks or chairs. Pupils had to sit on cold concrete floors or use cleaning buckets or their knees as their desks. It had become a norm for the pupils to fight over chairs when they change classes.

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