Residents voice frustration

Driftsands parents took to the streets to protest the shortage of classrooms and overcrowding at Mzamomtsha Primary School.

Residents of Driftsands just outside Khayelitsha have had enough of the overcrowded classrooms their children have to endure at school and protested this week to voice their frustration with the Western Cape Education Department (WCED).

Led by the Driftsands Development Forum (DDF) and the Mzamomtsha Primary School’s school governing body (SGB), irate residents and children took to the streets on Tuesday August 13 over what they say is the department’s failure to deliver on its promise to provide mobile classrooms before June this year.

The protesters said they met the WCED earlier this year about the overcrowded classes and were promised eight mobile classes.

They said to their surprise, the department contacted them and said they could only provide four classrooms.

The parents said they told them that while four was not enough, they would accept them to ease the pressure on some classes.

After the department’s failure to deliver even those four mobile classrooms, angry residents decided to lock teachers an children out of the school on Tuesday. 

With placards held high, the parents threatened to continue with the protest for as long as the mobile classes were not delivered.

Lumkile Ngcongo, deputy secretary of DDF, said: “These are our children and we want what is best for them. The school’s classes are overcrowded and that is not healthy for both teachers and pupils. We have been reminding the education department about its promise but it seems they are ignoring us. We are sick and tired of seeing our children in crowded classrooms. Each class has about 75 children. They should deliver mobile classes or we will see what to do going forward.”

Mr Ngcongo said when the SGB delivered the news to his organisation, they had to stand up for their children.

He said for now the school would remain closed.

“Together with the SGB, we have decided that the school should be closed. We will wait for the department’s response to our grievances.”

SGB chairperson Bolekwa Madikane said they tried all avenues to speak to the department.

“At first they confirmed with us that mobile classes have been approved and will be delivered before June. It is August and nothing has happened. We had no choice but to embark on this peaceful protest,” said Ms Madikane.

When Vukani arrived in the area on Tuesday, pupils could be seen all around the township but most were with their parents at the school gate.

The WCED said the school started an additional stream for Grade 8 and 9 pupils this year to accommodate the rapid growth in the surrounding community.

Jessica Shelver, spokesperson for Education MEC Debbie Schaffer, said the district had applied for additional mobile classrooms to accommodate the growth.

She said the circuit manager met with the protesters.

“The protesters have given the WCED 14 days to respond and have indicated that schooling will return to normal on Wednesday. We will continue to assist the school, and any other school that is facing huge growth in pupil numbers.”

Ms Shelver said the WCED was aware of the challenges some schools were experiencing with growth in pupil numbers and large class sizes. She said schools in the metro north district were experiencing the highest growth.

“We have projected that the system will grow by more than 26 000 pupils in 2019. In addition, the Western Cape’s population is projected to grow by 57 000 each year between now and 2030,” she said.

Ms Shelver also said the decrease in budget allocations had resulted in large classes and insufficient funding to provide resources, such as additional teachers and classrooms.

“Unless we are provided with money and more capacity to implement these, we cannot keep up with the demand that is being placed on this province,” said Ms Shelver.