Only 10 days of schooling a month

Lack of classrooms leads to rotational school attendance

19 February 2024 - 07:00
By Noxolo Sibiya
Attendance at Noordgesig secondary school is on rotational due to lack of
sufficient classrooms.
Image: ANTONIO MUCHAVE Attendance at Noordgesig secondary school is on rotational due to lack of sufficient classrooms.

Aaliyah Woodworth has spent only 10 days in a classroom since schools reopened in January.

The 14-year-old grade 9 pupil at Noordgesig Secondary School in Soweto is one of hundreds of pupils who are forced to attend school on a rotational basis due to a shortage of classrooms, after 13 asbestos structures were shut down in October 2023 for health and safety reasons.

The school is one of 29 learning facilities in the province built with asbestos that were declared unsafe by the department of education in 2022.

Last week, parents at the school held a meeting with officials from the Gauteng department of infrastructure development  in which they gave authorities two weeks to appoint a contractor to start building new classrooms to allow learning to  take place for all or deliver more mobile classrooms to ease their burden.

Aaliyah, who sat with her mother under a tree twiddling her thumbs on Thursday, said she has lost out on a lot of learning time since schools reopened and that there was not enough support given to continue learning at home.

“Sometimes we attend three times a week ... on  Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The next week we attend on Tuesday and Thursday,” said Aaliyah.

Schools across the country ended rotational learning when Covid-19 regulations were lifted in 2022.

A child goes to school for an average of 20 to 23 days a month.

“The rotational learning is bad for continuity. We sometimes do not understand the work that is given and can only wait until we go to school [to ask teachers]. That is nearly three days lost. 

“To catch up, we sometimes borrow books from our friends who may have attended a class that we have not attended. What this means is that if my friend has something wrong in the book, I am likely to follow.”

Her mother, Lesley-Ann Mesier, said her daughter’s performance has worsened because of the rotational learning.

“Her marks were usually high but since the start of this, they have declined. Their books are quite empty compared to their counterparts in other schools and that is great cause for concern,” she said.

Lesley-Ann Mesie
Image: ANTONIO MUCHAVE Lesley-Ann Mesie

“I make sure that I am with her and that we try to do some work but sometimes, we as parents do not understand the work ourselves.”

School governing body (SGB) member Ravern Martin said his child is currently in grade 9 and has been complaining about rotational classes too.

"She says it  puts a lot of strain on her and that trying to catch up is strenuous, Martin said.

He said his daughter sometimes studies with friends or classmates but has complained about not understanding some aspects of her schoolwork.

Martin said parents had asked teachers to offer extra lessons at the library after school but not all pupils were attending.

Parent Des Mboweni said they were tired of empty promises.  “We cannot have our children learning in those conditions. Those [mobile] classes are so hot, my daughter told me how she once had to get out of class just to get proper air and escape the heat... that is not ideal. 

“We have given them [the department] clear deadlines because they fail to commit to any. In two weeks, we would like additional capacity or we close the school.” 

Mboweni questioned why the school received eight mobile classes instead of 13.

Last year, the department delivered eight mobile classrooms.

SGB member Isaac Ramrok said he understood the frustrations of parents as they felt ignored, but the teachers were also demotivated.

“Our children are roaming the streets on days when they should be in school. We have challenges with those who are doing consumer studies because they have no equipped classroom to do the practicals. They need stoves and other apparatuses that we had in the asbestos classes. Even if we could move the stove, where would we move them to because there is just no space. 

“These learners have to be sent to neighbouring schools to do their practicals and this doesn’t sometimes work out. The SGB and the principal communicate our challenges with the department of education regularly but they are not being attended to. It’s like our children are not a priority,” said Ramrok.  

The Gauteng education department on Monday said a replacement project for the school is at an advanced stage and that more mobile classrooms will be delivered in due course.

“…A contractor was appointed on Monday, 12 February 2024 to remove asbestos building material and it is anticipated that this work will be concluded by the end of March 2024.”

It said there is a catch-up plan in place and includes, but not limited to, an extension of teaching and learning time and Saturday classes.

“The school is providing learning packs for learners to work on at home. Currently, Noordgesig Secondary has collaborated with Lofentse Girls [high school] to cater for the consumer studies lessons. A catch[-up] plan has been drawn where learners are expected to attend an extra hour a day and three hours on Saturday classes.

“The GDE does not support nor condone any action or behaviour that is geared towards the disruption of teaching and learning, these activities are an infringement to the learners’ rights to receive education in line with the constitution of the republic,” said the department. 

 

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When Sowetan visited the school on Thursday, pupils appeared restless and were seen exiting mobile classrooms to sit outside for some fresh air. Some opted to play soccer while others sat around chatting. 

A teacher said they had to teach the same lesson over and over again and this delayed finishing the syllabus.

Inside the mobile classrooms an unbearable heatwave  stifled pupils and teachers.  

The mobile classrooms are overcrowded and teachers can hardly move between desks.

The school also has a shortage of furniture. A group of pupils could be seen playing arcade games and pool during school hours.  – Additional Reporting by Jeanette Chabalala

sibiyan@sowetan.co.za