Overcrowding leads to school shutdown

The entrance to Mhlaba Combined School is completely blocked off with desks and burning tyres.

BOSCHFONTEIN – Community members barricaded the gates of Mhlaba Combined School (MCS) with desks and burning tyres from last Wednesday to Friday in protest of overcrowded conditions at the school.

Overcrowding came about after the school was asked to temporarily accommodate grade 10 pupils for three months, before they could move to Langa Secondary, which is still under construction.

MCS currently accommodates preschool, primary and secondary learners, but the latter were slated to be moved to Langa Secondary. This move was derailed because the new school had no electricity, water or sanitation facilities.

Classes at MCS are said to be packed, with over 100 schoolchildren per class.

One of the grade 10 pupils said, “We are too many in class, the number has increased this year. The classrooms are small and we can’t all fit in at the tables. We take chairs from the young ones. When you want to go out, you have to climb on top of tables. When a teacher wants to teach, we have to make space. It is also difficult because people bring food to class and our books sometimes get stained.”

Parents are concerned that children are unable to learn due to overcrowded classrooms and that it will affect their progress at school.

Community members who participated in the protest action stated that they were fighting for a conducive learning environment for their kids.

“We want the department to answer. We have closed the school until they answer us. It doesn’t matter whether it takes three months. We are not damaging anything. What can we destroy when the classrooms are few?” Mr Elvis Mnisi asked.

Mr Bongani Maziya, a parent of a primary pupil, said they were fighting to get something. “If they can add classrooms, reduce the number of learners per class, and learners learn in a conducive environment, we will be happy.”

The Department of Education stepped in over the weekend to diffuse the situation and to enable the school’s activities to resume this week.

According to Mr Jasper Zwane, spokesman for the Mpumalanga Department of Education, they acknowledge that MCS is overcrowded but that they are in the process of operationalising Langa Secondary. “We have dispersed mobile classrooms, fenced the school and installed a sanitation facility,” he said.

The mobile classrooms that have been installed at Langa Secondary School to accommodate more learners.

The mobile classrooms that have been installed at Langa Secondary School to accommodate more learners.

Electricity and water should also have been connected by Wednesday, enabling pupils to start moving in on the same day.

“We appreciate the extent to which parents have engaged with the department and assure them that we are working towards a stable teaching and learning environment at both schools,” Zwane stated.

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