Township schools are inferior, claim parents

This eight-year-old hasn't been to school this year because her parents don't want her in township school.
This eight-year-old hasn't been to school this year because her parents don't want her in township school.

Several parents are shunning township schools by refusing to enrol their children, and have opted to keep them home for nearly three months.

A group of parents in Emalahleni, Mpumalanga, who preferred to take their children to former model C schools, were left frustrated when they were told the schools were full.

The parents decided they would play a waiting game to find alternate private schools, or former model C schools, in the area.

They claimed that township schools were offering "inferior education", and lacked
sporting facilities and were in a state of neglect.

By Friday, some of the parents were still scrambling to find spaces for their children.

Parents in the mining town of Ackerville in Witbank told Sowetan the provincial department gave them alternative schools in the townships which they were not willing to enrol their children at.

One of the parents, Ayanda Motsepe from Ackerville, said her eight-year-old daughter was enrolled for grade 1 at a private school last year.

She wanted to enrol her at Laerskool Kragbron which is nearly 15km away. She was told the school was full and offered an alternative in the township which she refused, citing language difficulties and lack of facilities.

Motsepe said her daughter could not go to Phakama Primary School which is 5km away.

"I explained to the official that my child can't go to Phakama because she was doing English and Afrikaans, now she would have to do isiZulu and English only. She later called me to tell me that I should take my child to Sibukosethu Primary School. I explained that the two township schools were the same," Motsepe said.

"Classes at the school they were sending me to are always full. I do not trust the teaching from the teachers there.

"I know of the kids going to the township schools. By noon the child is back at home. There are no extramural activities. My daughter had started playing hockey, and enjoying it. How will she play hockey in Phakama?"

Another parent was also prepared to wait by keeping her child home until she found a "perfect school" she wanted for her eight-year-old daughter.

"I moved from the area I was staying in to town, and I applied to three primary schools, Panorama, Kragbron and Robert Carruthers, which are a few minutes from my place.

"I was rejected in all the schools, and then went to the district office, but I am still waiting for a reply from the director. I am worried because this is the same director who told me the schools were full.

"I am worried about my child as I can see that she is stressing about staying at home," she said.

When Sowetan visited Phakama Primary School, there were no proper sports facilities, and the grass surrounding the school was almost a metre high. Some residents near the school told of the "poor quality of education" offered by the school.

"I would never take my children to this school. It has no facilities. The only reason one can take their children to this school will be because of poverty, nothing else," said one of the residents who requested not to be named.

Kragbron, on the other hand, boasts well-maintained sports facilities, including hockey.

Motsepe said it would cost her R500 for her daughter's transport to travel to Kragbon monthly, but that this was little price to pay for good education.

"But taking my daughter to a township school would be regressing. The schools are not taken care of."

Other parents who also did not want to be named echoed her sentiments.

Matilda Yende from the Federation for Radical Economic Transformation Foundation said in January there were almost over 500 pupils who approached her organisation for help.

"A number of community-based organisations had to intervene because it was chaotic at the department. We managed to place over 300 pupils, and in our list we have about 20 pupils who have not been placed as yet," she said.

She said the pupils are from different grades, but mostly were from grade 1 and 8.

"We placed the 300 with difficulties as school principals complained that they were full, but the Mpumalanga department of education promised to bring mobile classes but this has never happened. The department want to push these kids to township schools whereas some schools in the town still have place. Some parents were forced to enrol their children at private schools that they cannot even afford," Yende said.

Mpumalanga education spokesperson Jasper Zwane said all pupils who were on the consolidated list at Emalahleni have been admitted.

"There may be a case of a parent or two who were advised to register their children at a particular school which has space, but chose not to," Zwane said.

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