School has 196 learners and ten grades but only four classrooms

“I feel like I am running three different schools,” says principal

By Yamkela Ntshongwana

Photo of a rondavel and children
Nozukile Nokhonya, a Grade R teacher who has been at Mpovane Senior Primary School for ten years, gives class in a rondavel that is too small to accommodate chairs, desks and a cupboard. Photo: Yamkela Ntshongwana

Mpovane Senior Primary School has seven staff members and 196 learners in Grade R to Grade 9. But it only has four classrooms, which date back to when the school was established in 1988. Mpovane village is outside Cofimvaba in the Eastern Cape.

According to school principal Matambeka Votile, a letter requesting the education department to undertake renovations and provide additional classrooms was sent in 2015. The school was told there was no budget.

In 2016, school staff and community members contributed R100 per family to buy building materials, but the funds were insufficient to complete the two additional classrooms the parents had planned. The school then approached people for space on their private properties.

“Grade R and Grade 2 are schooling outside the school premises in some households because of the shortage of learning rooms. We only meet in the morning in the school assembly. Then after eating the school porridge, they leave with their teachers to their places,” said Votile.

Both learning venues are about a kilometre from the school. If it is raining, Grade R learners don’t go to the class as it is too far for them to go in the rain. When Votile has school announcements to make, he has to go by car between the various learning venues.

“I feel like I am running three different schools because every day after my lessons I have to go to these outside learning places and check if the teachers and learners are still fine.’’

The four classrooms the school does have must be shared between grade 1 and grades 3 to 9. “In this situation, if the grade 4 teacher is teaching, grade 5 and their teacher have to be quiet and wait for their time while in the same learning room. It is very disturbing for grade 1 as they are sharing their learning room with the kitchen. The nutrition helpers would be cooking while teachers are doing their job. At the same time, they are at risk of getting burned by the hot pots if not supervised,’’ said Votile.

The private owners are not charging, but the spaces are far from ideal. Bulelwa Velem teaches Grade 2 in a mud plastered room. The owners of the main house are away working in Johannesburg. Nozukile Nokhonya, a Grade R teacher who has been at the school for ten years, gives class in a rondavel that is too small to accommodate chairs, desks and a cupboard.

‘’Every morning I have to carry a bucket full of water in case the kids get thirsty because we have no tap where we are,” said Nokhonya.

Spokesperson for the Eastern Cape Department of Education Malibongwe Mtima provided GroundUp a copy of an undated letter sent by TV Nkhulu, the Chris Hani East District manager, to the acting district director. It recommends that immediate action be taken to improve the situation or to include the school on the department’s priority list.


Published originally on GroundUp .

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