Drugs, violent pupils, overcrowded classes, dilapidated infrastructure and repeated break-ins. These are just a few of the challenges schools in Atteridgeville, west of Pretoria, are dealing with on a daily basis.
“It is better to teach under a tree than to have a class full of children without a teacher,” one teacher told DA Gauteng shadow MEC for education Khume Ramulifho during his visit to the Phuthaditshaba Primary School yesterday morning.
This school is without a science and maths teacher, leading to pupils feeling hopeless. But even worse, one teacher explained, is that some of the children are so violent, due to drug abuse, they are afraid to talk to them.
“This morning we had an incident where one talked back to a teacher and we called the parents in. However, the parents said they are also afraid to talk to the child,” a high school teacher said.
He said some of these intoxicated pupils and bullies use the chairs and desks in the classrooms to assault their fellow pupils. Besides the injuries to pupils, this also leads to extensive damage of school infrastructure and resources.
Broken chairs and desks could be seen piled up in a corner next to one of the classrooms. The school said safety was a huge concern and that they had suffered three break-ins since the beginning of the year.
The thieves stole laptops, calculators, smart boards, computers and modems.
“We have only one patroller at night, and during one incident he was tied up and could do nothing during a break-in,” they told Ramulifho. “The computer classroom is empty, as all resources have been stolen and we cannot teach the pupils information computer technology.”
The teachers also complained about classrooms being filled with between 47 and 60 pupils each, without enough teachers to cater to them. Some schools have exceeded their limit by more than 250 pupils.
Ramulifho was told the education department would not replace the stolen resources or appoint extra teachers.
While the Phelindaba Secondary School is also overcrowded, with 40 teachers having to teach 1 611 pupils in 27 brick and nine mobile classrooms, there appeared to be better discipline, and a less dangerous environment for both teachers and pupils.
“The department has been failing to spend the infrastructure budget. Even now in the previous quarter, they only spent about 50% of the infrastructure budget,” according to Ramulifho. “What we have also seen is the MEC for finance last week cut the department of education infrastructure budget by almost R500 million.
“This is a serious challenge, because if you are cutting the budget and our school infrastructure is in this state, we are really not looking at our priorities.”
He said the DA would take these problems up with Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi and the legislature for debate.