News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Wednesday June 26th 2019

Learner migration leads to overcrowding at WC schools

Peter Luhanga

A perception that the Western Cape’s schools are well-resourced is resulting in a flood of learners migrating from other provinces, straining the Western Cape’s education budget and leading to overcrowded classrooms.

Western Cape Education Department (WCED) spokesperson Bronagh Casey said besides the natural increase in the province’s population, about 12 000 learners, predominantly from the Eastern Cape, migrated to the province every year.

The affected “every form of education and training”, said Casey, leading to overcrowded classrooms, particularly in urban centres where learners stayed with parents or relatives, as the department’s budget to cater for this influx was limited.

She said Delft, for instance, where land had been opened up for settlement, had seen a huge increase in the school-going population.

As a result four new schools were earmarked for construction in order to address the needs of the community in accordance with the Department’s “new schools in planning for 2009/10”.

She said according to the United Nations Educational Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), only 17 countries had a pupil to teacher ration of 30:1 or more in secondary schools.

South Africa was situated in the “bottom 10%” of this list, and the Western Cape itself sat below the internationally benchmarked levels, with an average ration of 34.7:1.

She said in order to combat the problem of overcrowded classrooms, the WCED was erecting mobile classrooms for the worst affected schools.

She said although there was a countrywide shortage of teachers, teachers would be deployed to the new classes from schools which had a low pupil to teacher ratio.

Principal of Voorspoed Primary School in Hanover Park, Rodney Theys, said overcrowding was a major obstacle to providing quality education,

Theys said his classrooms were built 40 years ago and designed to accommodate 35 learners, but he had up to 44 learners in a class at his school.

“It’s a tight squeeze,” he said, “a teacher does not concentrate on a weaker pupil. They [learners] do not get the necessary attention they deserve.”

WCED Institutional and Governance manager, Mphumzi Mafu, who is in charge of nine schools in the Philippi and Samora Machel areas, said overcrowding in his area was an ongoing crisis.

Mafu said there was a perception that Western Cape Schools were better resourced, which was not necessarily the case.

He said many learners in Philippi and Samora Machel had migrated from the Eastern Cape, and grades eight and nine were particularly overcrowded.

“It’s an ongoing problem. At the opening of the school year there is an influx of learners from the Eastern Cape,” he said.

Meanwhile Eastern Cape Provincial Education Department spokesperson Loyiso Pumulani said schools in the rural areas were half empty, as learners migrated either to urban centres in the province, or to the Western Cape.

“We do a quarterly assessment of learner movement, it’s been ongoing for sometime, they [learners] feel that urban schools are better equipped,” said Pumulani

He said in rural areas such as the former Transkei, schools lacked electricity and laboratories and infrastructure was “in shambles”.

He also said the Western Cape was a chosen destination for many learners because there were many Xhosa speaking people there who had roots in the Eastern Cape. — West Cape News.

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