South Africa: Protest Shuts Down Overcrowded School

24 January 2020

Parents and learners brought learning to a standstill on Wednesday and Thursday at Masibambane High School in Bloekombos, Kraaifontein, Cape Town.

Hundreds of learners demonstrated on Old Paarl Road, holding up taxis transporting people to work.

The parents and learners are demanding that the Western Cape Education Department provide prefab classrooms to accommodate new learners who are on a waiting list.

Community leader Zanele Gxokhwe said leaders had registered about 150 learners from nearby primary schools last year. But, she said, those new learners had been sitting in the school hall wearing uniforms and awaiting admission since schools opened.

"We parents became angry and decided to push for their admission when the learners returned home on Tuesday saying the principal had turned them away," she said.

Zwelethu Stemela, School-Governing Body chairperson, said: "We want five temporary classrooms to accommodate the surplus learners for now. [We will] negotiate with the department for a new school while the learners are studying."

Currently the learners study in a brick building and in two temporary classrooms.

Stemela said learners on the waiting list have no other option because other schools are already full. "I blame the department for the shutdown because it has not done anything about our request for five more classrooms that we made five years ago."

Student leader and matric learner Sinovuyo Mbada said she felt frustrated that matric learners have not yet started classes.

"We want the department to squeeze in the surplus learners and promise in writing that it will bring us more temporary classrooms first and build a new school to accommodate them later," she said.

School principal Rajan Naidoo said: "I understand parents are desperately looking for spaces for their own children, but I don't have space for them." He said the teachers need three temporary classrooms to accommodate extra learners and another three to relieve overcrowding.

Department spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said: "[The Department] is currently assessing learner numbers at each of the schools in the area, as well as classroom availability and teaching posts."

"We will do what we can to try to accommodate those unplaced as soon as possible, but we need to ensure that we have the right information to make informed decisions on placement and resourcing."

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