School oversight visit reveals up to 80 learners to a class

By Mbali Ntuli, MPL, DA KZN Spokesperson on Education:

AN oversight visit by the DA to Nqabeni Primary School, between Port Shepstone and Harding, has revealed shocking conditions with 530 learners being taught by just 12 teachers and up to 80 learners in one classroom.

The recent visit by my colleague, DA MPL Dr Rishigen Viranna, in whose constituency Nqabeni falls, comes after numerous complaints from the community about conditions at the school.

During the visit, Dr Viranna established that;

–       Classrooms are extremely overcrowded.  Grade 3 and 6 are made up of 75 and 80 learners respectively, each being taught by one brave teacher. The other Grade classes have approximately 45 learners to one teacher

–       During school hours, all 530 learners share seven long drop pit toilets – three for boys and four for girls.  These toilets are in a dire state. One collapsed while a person was inside. Fortunately that person was an adult who was able to be rescued but what if it had been a child?

–       Limited infrastructure development over the past 20 years despite the school being almost 100 years old.  In fact, the only work done by the KZN Department of Public Works during this entire time was some painting

–       The wooden floors in the original buildings are crumbling whole there are also problems with the roofing

–       The boarding facility is overcrowded and in an extremely poor state. The majority of boarders come from the Eastern Cape.  While the DoE does pay the salaries of the house mothers, it provides no funds for the upkeep of the facilities.

–       Poor and in some cases no water and sanitation provision, due to service delivery failures by the Ugu District, means that the entire school is completely reliant on intermittent water tanker deliveries and purified rain water for its water needs.  This is sorely inadequate for the needs of the boarding establishment which is forced to use water pumped up from the local Umzimkhulwana River for their bathing and cleaning needs.

According to school officials, the reason for the huge overcrowding is that Nqabeni Primary School is the only English-medium school in the 80km region between Port Shepstone and Harding.  Staff say they have raised the issues of school and hostel maintenance, learner numbers and waster problems with local DoE officials on many occasions – without any success.

The DA is disgusted by the Department’s attitude about conditions at Nqabeni Primary School.  The situation did not develop overnight – it is a simple and straightforward case of not caring about learners whose education is being compromised.  No child can learn properly when squashed into a classroom with 80 other children and one teacher.

Certainly, conditions at Nqabeni Primary are not isolated. In January the DA highlighted the plight of learners at eMlokothwa High School in KwaNongoma where conditions were so bad we described it as “KZN’S worst school”.  Today, through a media report we have also learned of the plight of learners at Morning Star Primary school in Colenso, where children in lower grades are being taught outside under trees.  Staff also claim to have approached the KZN Education department for help, also without success.

The DA expects KZN Education MEC, Peggy Nkonyeni to answer questions about Nqabeni and Morning Star schools at the next meeting of the Education portfolio committee.  We also want to know what has been done to improve conditions at eMlokothwa.

The MEC must also explain why, in every corner of the province, the DA is finding schools that have simply been forgotten and where there is little hope of learners ever escaping the cycle of poverty and illiteracy.