The head of the Eastern Cape education department has defended the rationalisation of schools that have too few pupils, which are closed and merged with more viable ones.
In an interview last week, department superintendent-general Themba Kojana said they needed to do this to provide all schools with what they need.
Kojana responded to communities who resisted the closure of schools in their areas, saying small pupil numbers resulted in schools not being provided with enough teachers and infrastructure.
One such school that closed last year was Long Hope Primary School in Elliot, which only had 62 pupils.
A primary school is required to have at least 135 pupils.
Kojana said the department did not simply shut down schools, arguing that the closures followed consultation and planning.
“It is important for us to canvass a plan because communities’ concerns are genuine. Where will the children go to? Do they travel long distances? These are some of the things to consider and we have developed plans,” Kojana said.
He said the department would soon start road shows to inform parents and communities of why they had to close non-viable schools.
Kojana said another problem was that there sometimes would be a big school somewhere, but because of its poor leadership parents would send their children to a better performing school elsewhere.
“Parents and children choose which schools to go to, and then pupil numbers go down in some of the schools because of how a school is managed and how it is resourced,” he said.
Provincial education spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima was adamant that proper consultation took place before Long Hope Primary School was closed, and that the school was given notice in October last year.
“Parents were told to find new schools for their children nearby for this year, since Long Hope Primary School was closed down. Parents are refusing to register their children at other schools as requested,” he said.
“That school is now closed. There is nothing that is going to change. The school has no budget, no teachers, and will not be provided with pupil support material. There is nothing happening there, that is why we are calling on parents to stop resisting this necessary change and register their children at other schools.”
Mtima said consultations to close down the school began in 2016 and before the school was rationalised it only had two teachers – including the principal.
He said the teacher-pupil ratio in a primary school like Long Hope was one teacher to 40 pupils.
For a high school with a minimum of 200 pupils, the ratio is one teacher to 35 pupils.
“The situation is detrimental to the pupils and it’s also an impossible task for the teachers. It simply means in such a school, pupils are not going to get proper, quality education. A single teacher cannot teach all seven learning areas per grade.
“And then, on top of that, the same teacher is required to teach five grades,” Mtima said.