Thursday, January 31, 2013

"Crammed Like Sardines" - S.A. Education

 Wednesday, January 30, 2013, Article entitled,  Crammed Like Sardines on page 1-2 of The Herald.  "123 kids squeezed into one classroom due to teacher shortage."

In a damning indictment of the Eastern Cape Education Department, one primary school is Pearston has been forced to squash a staggering 123 young pupils into a single classroom because of the crippling teacher shortage.  The youngsters have spent the first two weeks crammed into the classroom in sweltering heat of up to 37 degrees C.  The school's single Grand 6 Class has 86 pupils and Grade 5 has 59.

Angry parents picketed outside the school on Monday morning, locking pupils and teachers out because "no learning was taking place anywhere as there are no teachers."  The town, situated between Graaff-Reinet and Somerset East, is about 160 km from Port Elizabeth.  Other schools around the province are in a similar predicament.  At Asherville and Spandau senior secondary schools parents have closed down the school in protest against the teacher shortage.  They also handed over a memorandum of complaints to they district director, only identified as N de Bruin. . .

According to the teacher allocation for this year, the school was meant to have 20 teachers.  But it is four short -- two for Grade 2, one for Grand 5 and one for Grade 6.  The provincial Education Department's termination of temporary teacher contracts--starting at the end of 2010-- sparked a number of court battles to get them reinstated.  This year, there are 4,000 fewer teachers in the province, resulting in a critical shortage of teachers in many schools. . .

As a no-fee school, Pearson Primary had to take from funds raised to by a school bus to pay the teacher's R5,000 monthly salary.  The school's only Grade 2 teacher, althea Speelman, had been teaching the 123 pupils on her own in a single class until parents or grandparents--one a retired teacher--volunteered to help.  She said the overcrowding had an impact on discipline and struggling pupils did not get the individual attention they deserstely needed.  "This is just too much and it is not fair to me and, more especially, the pupils.   I really wish those who decided to give fewer teachers and terminate the contract of temporary teachers could just see what they have left us with.  It's pathetic and totally unfair."

We are sending the above article to Jan Thorpe, a vice principal in Granite District.  Tom notes, "Education here is something else;  fifty, sixty, seventy students in a classroom in elementary school exists.  Teachers sometimes are not paid for 3 - 6 months.  Some keep teaching while  others walk off.  Public school have major problems--insufficient teachers, lack of text books, but the private schools are good where parents can afford to pay tuition like the students who go to Judge or Juan Diego in SLC.  All schools require uniforms.  The students here look real good.

This system is based on the European or British model.  The greatest challenges exist in public high schools that native Africans attend.  In order to graduate a student must pass all the subjects in their senior year above 35/100.  If a student has a 35% average he can graduate or Matric.  Even so at this low level less than 50% of the blacks ever graduate.  It is especially hard when these seniors have no text books and when teachers do not show up.  Their graduation scores follow these kids throughout their lives.  Even when they earn a higher degrees the scores can impact whether or not they get a job."

Neither Bulewa Kewuli or Amanda Ntlonjey who completed "Planning for Success" in Grahamstown Sunday passed their Matric.  Each failed two classes which they must retake in order to qualify for a PEF loan.  The Van Sickles,  senior employment missionaries in Port Elizabeth,  have 35 students  in retake classes so they can find jobs. 

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