Parliament of South Africa

02/04/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 02/04/2020 03:51

Basic Education Committee Commends Limpopo Province, but Urges Department to Act on School Overcrowding

Challenges with severe overcrowding in classrooms featured strongly on the first day of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education's oversight visit to several schools in two education districts in Limpopo.

The committee visited five schools in the Capricorn and Sekhukhune regions. Among other things, the committee assessed school readiness for the 2020 academic year, the general state of schooling and the latest National Senior Certificate results, which were lower than expected.

The Committee Chairperson, Ms Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, said the committee was satisfied with the general state of schooling, and the progress the schools have made under difficult circumstances. 'We have seen schools performing exceptionally well despite challenges, such as the shortage of educators and high learner enrolments.'

The committee was informed at Diphala and Bachabang primary schools and Phafane Secondary School that in some instances class sizes can vary from 45 to 68 learners per classroom. At Eureka Full Service School, the Grade 6 class has 83 learners and 58 Grade R learners.

'We are, however, extremely concerned about the big number of learners per classroom. We cannot allow a situation where our classrooms are overcrowded, especially not to this extent and specifically not in the foundation phase. This is not conducive to learning,' added Ms Mbinqo-Gigaba.

Committee Member Ms Marie Sukers added that the large classes were affecting learner performance. She also questioned whether educators could teach effectively in such an environment, which might impact negatively on morale.

Ms Mbinqo-Gigaba told the teachers that, past a certain point, they must be firm and refer parents to other schools. She discouraged principals and school managements from accepting learners if the classes are already full.

Regarding the state of infrastructure at Bachabang Primary School, another committee member, Ms Nombuyiselo Adoons, said special intervention is needed to ensure unsafe structures to not become a hazard to curious learners. She said the committee needed commitments from the education authorities and that these must be monitored. She applauded the principal and staff at Phafane Secondary School who, despite the challenges, 'are trying their level best and keep working on plans to ensure a better future for the learners'.

The committee also noted that some schools do not have enough teachers. In these cases, the bigger classes serve to ensure that learners have an educator in front of them. Other challenges that the committee noted include a shortage of furniture and toilets.

Regarding overcrowding, Ms Mbinqo-Gigaba said: 'We want to commend the officials of the provincial department of education for committing to provide mobile classrooms to schools in need within the next few weeks. We request that similar plans are made regarding toilets,' said Ms Mbinqo-Gigaba.

The committee will continue with its oversight visit tomorrow in the province.

Rajaa Azzakani
4 February 2020