Inequality in education is evident in the lack of laboratories for the teaching of science in poor schools.
Under-resourced schools in the poorest areas of Cape Town continue to improve their physical science results despite the odds stacked against them. Earlier last year, Elitsha reported on how Bardale High in Mfuleni improved its physical science scores in 2018 and how Intsebenziswano was able to produce a second top performing learner in the subject.
Schools around the country are classified into quintiles based on the relative wealth of their surrounding communities. Quintiles 1, 2, and 3 are classified as no fee schools because they are based in poor areas.
Fezeka Secondary School, a quintile 3 school in Gugulethu, was awarded the most improved school in physical science for 2019 with a pass rate of 56.7% compared to the 20% of learners who passed in 2018. The former acting-principal, Zoliswa Ngqukuvana, said that the school faced numerous challenges in the teaching of mathematics and physical science. “The school in the past three years has been given freelance teachers for a few hours and that was difficult. There were no permanent teacher in physical science.”
Another challenge according to Ngqukuvana was the lack of parental involvement with poor attendance of parents’ meetings. Social environmental factors like gangsterism within the community also discouraged learning.
Speaking to Elitsha, a 17-year-old Grade 11 learner, Benam Nqangiso, said that they used to have problems going to school because of gangsters. Gangsterism would either prevent learners from walking in certain areas on their way to school or even from entering the school. Nqangiso also said that the lack of resources at the school meant that they were unable to do all the experiments included in the curriculum. “I am doing physical science because after Grade 12 I want to work for the South African Air Force, because my dream is to be in the army and become a pilot,” he said.
Another Grade 11 learner, Olona Mafalane (17), who is ready to outshine the class of 2019, stated that she found the shortage of material in the school’s laboratory to be a serious challenge as they could not perform all experiments in class. Mafalane stays in Nyanga and has to walk over two kilometres to make sure she is on time for school. Part of her preparations for this year includes attending morning and afternoon classes. After matric she wants to study chemistry at the University of Johannesburg or the University of the Western Cape.
Nkosinathi Ngcobo, a Grade 10 – 12 physical science teacher at Fezeka Secondary School, said that he had inherited learners who lacked basic information in the subject. Every time a new chapter was introduced, he would have to go back to basics. This did not deter him because, according to him, the Grade 12s of last year were a dedicated group who attended morning and afternoon classes even on weekends. The lack of materials in class, he did confirm, was a major problem. “I had so many challenges but one of them is that we lacked chemicals to do our experiments,” he said.