GDO wants gr. 8’s at primary schools

Henry

The Gauteng Department of Education (GDO) is ready to unload temporary classrooms at several primary schools in Kempton Park in a desperate attempt to find room for hundreds of gr. 8s who applied to a high school in the area.

Principals were informed about this late on Tuesday evening, without knowing the schools’ governing bodies in the decision. Moreover, it is not clear who will teach these learners or who will have to pay for additional resources.

“Please note that your school has been identified as one of those that has room for mobile classrooms (…). Be prepared, should it be necessary to introduce plan B to 2024’s gr. 8 learners who did not get a place in one of the four high schools in the area,” reads the message from the department. At least five primary schools, most of which are parallel medium, received this message.

Plan A, according to a message distributed by a local DA councillor, is to have a piece of land in the area rezoned, so that it can be used for the establishment of a satellite school. An application for the emergency use of the land was only submitted to the Ekurhuleni municipality last week, although the department has already known about the lack of space in Kempton Parks schools for several years.

If this application is not successful, the primary schools will each have to make room for three or four mobile classrooms on their sports fields. This means that up to 160 high school students will have to use the same facilities as primary school students.

“Such a decision would be completely ill-considered and unacceptable,” says Marius Botha, an independent education consultant from Pretoria. He says the department has long known about the shortage of schools here.

“This decision has far-reaching consequences for schools’ infrastructure. In addition, schools’ budgets have already been drawn up. Who is going to pay for the additional learning resources and staff?” He has already drawn up a legal letter on behalf of schools, which can be sent to the department.

Melanie Buys, head of development at Solidarity’s School Support Center (SOS), also says such a step will completely overburden existing facilities, which poses a danger to learners’ safety. “We will assist schools as much as we can to prevent this from happening.”

The Edleen Primary School is one of the schools that may gr. 8s will have to take in, something the school community is deeply concerned about.

“We are particularly concerned that our learners will have to share the school grounds with high school learners. We have a nursery school on site, which takes children from three years old. These children will have to share the facilities with children over 14 years old,” says Schoneze Moodley, governing body chairman of Edleen Primary School.

She says it is also a problem for the school that the classes will have to be placed on their sports ground. “We offer rugby and athletics here. Where should our children play sports now?”

According to Moodley, the school has meanwhile sent a letter to the department in which they request that the department put all the details in writing, so that the school’s governing body can consider them.

“The primary schools in Kempton Park realize the problem with regard to places in schools. We are willing to help where we can, but we are not going to take in high school students.”