Iequality in education is evident in the lack of laboratories for the teaching of science in poor schools
A lack of resources for teaching and learning of physical science remains one of the biggest challenges facing poor schools. The Western Cape Education Department claims that its budget is skewed in favour of poor schools, but interviews conducted by Elitsha on the situation in quintile 2 schools in Cape Town, namely Intsebenziswano and Bardale High, reveal a dire situation. Schools around the country are classified into quintiles based on the relative wealth of the surrounding communities. Quintile 1, 2, and 3 are classified as no fee schools because they are based in poor areas.
Kamva Goso from Intsebenziswano High in Phillipi was the second top performing student in Physical Science and he achieved seven distinctions. Meanwhile, according to Bardale High School’s principal Athini Tyandela, the Mfuleni-based school achieved an 84,2% pass rate in Physical Science with most of these learners achieving above 40% which is an adequate pass. Goso and Bardale High were awarded at the Western Cape Education Department’s matric awards last week.
Goso’s achievement is all the more remarkable for the fact Intsebenziswano High does not have a science laboratory, as the school principal, Moipone Sam, told Elitsha. “We have a small cabinet where we keep the few materials that we have but unlike the rich schools we do not have a fully functional lab,” she said. “We were lucky to get a mobile laboratory from one of the mobile networks and it helped a lot.
“When I first came to the school there was shortage of furniture and we had to go around schools asking for furniture because waiting for resources from the government takes forever,” she complained.
Goso, who has been admitted to study actuarial science at the University of Cape Town, said that the key to his achievement has been consistency. “Coming from a poor family in a poor neighbourhood, I believe that education is one of the opportunities that I have been afforded to change things for myself, my family and my neighbourhood.”
It is this responsibility he feels for his community, he said, that had him decline going to a former model C school. “If there has to be change it must be in our townships,” said the 18-year-old. “Even though we do have a computer lab at the school, it has only five computers so we had to go to internet shops in the area to have access to the internet”, said Goso.
The principal of Bardale High, Athini Tyandela, told Elitsha that they do not have a computer laboratory and just like Intsebenziswano, they have a cabinet where they keep education materials. “The Physical Science teacher has to do a lot of simulation for practicals,” she said.
Classes at the school are conducted in prefab classrooms. “In summer it gets really hot and in winter the prefabs are cold,” she said. “We have big classes and for subjects like Maths Literacy for Grade 12, classes go up to 53 learners in a class.”
Tyandela attributed the success of the school to a number of interventions that they made at the school, including a project together with TRAC, a non-profit organisation based at the University of Stellenbosch that is dedicated to improving science education. “They would take some of our learners to their lab and they coached and mentored our Grade 12 teacher,” she said. “I think the mentorship programme that we had last year where a teacher was mentoring 8 learners across subjects yielded positive results. We were able to get to the bottom of the problem and help the learners do better,” said Tyandela. Out of the 96 learners who sat for the matric examinations, 51% got bachelor passes.
Speaking to Elitsha, Western Cape MEC for Education, Debbie Schäfer, said that their budget skewed in favour of poor schools. “We are building more schools with science labs and computer labs in poor areas and run workshops to equip the teachers and when there is a need, provide schools with teachers. But we want the learners at the poor schools to take the opportunities that we provide and make something out of it,” she said. Asked what resources her department provides to poor schools, Schäfer said that they uplift them with resources while cautious that it is not to the detriment of rich schools.