The Limpopo department of education said the “tree school” matter was a direct result of parents trying to put pressure on government to renovate a school that does not meet the national norms and standards.
The department was responding to Section 27 which said yesterday pupils at Makangwane Secondary School in Bochum had been taught under trees since January, despite their cries spanning more than a decade for better infrastructure.
Section 27 said it was approached by the school to represent the school governing body (SGB). Following that, it filed an urgent court application against the department for failure to provide safe and adequate infrastructure for pupils.
It said a part of the corrugated iron roof flew off one of the buildings during break time in January, prompting the governing body to decide that pupils should no longer be taught in the dilapidated structures, but should rather learn under nearby trees.
Provincial department spokesperson Sam Makondo said: “The government was shocked to learn that parents forcefully removed the learners and the school furniture from classrooms and put them under a tree.
“This despite the department’s arrangement with the SGB of a nearby school to accommodate learners temporarily, while the merging process is in process”.
Makondo added that there was no such thing as a “tree school” in Limpopo and that parents carefully planned this incident to force the province to build a school that did not need to be built. He said the merging of small and nonviable schools was lawful in terms of section 12A of the SA Schools Act, and that because Makangwane only had 109 pupils as opposed to the minimum of 200, it could lawfully be merged for educational viability.
Makondo said: “The school does not meet the national norm of at least having 200 learners to exist as a school for quality teaching and learning to take place, in terms of having the right educators who will teach every subject.
“With 109 learners, the school only qualifies for three educators and it will place an enormous burden on our educators, who have to teach subjects they have not specialised in. This is what we think the parents fail to understand and so is Section 27.
“Our efforts to take learners to another facility have been rejected without considering the interest of the learners,” he added.
“We are in the business of education and we shall continue engaging. As a department, we shall continue to apply policies that enhance quality education to our learners. This is our commitment and priority and the sooner parents understand the agenda of the department the better.”
Equal Education, a group that runs norms and standards campaign for decent infrastructure, said: “We believe it is important that the [department of basic education] provide safe and adequate school infrastructure that is conducive to learning.
“It is unacceptable that the DBE has blatantly disregarded the first deadline of the norms and standards [November 29, 2016], and as a result learners continue to be taught in environments which are unsafe and/or not conducive to learning and teaching.”
Section 27 said it would continue helping the school’s SGB.