Minister Grant Visits ACJ Phakade Primary School
Media Statement by Minister of Education, Donald Grant
This morning, I visited ACJ Phakade Primary School in Strand to investigate various claims pertaining to the teaching and infrastructure conditions at the school.
What I witnessed was unacceptable and disturbing.
Some of the Grade 1 learners were sitting on the classroom floor because of a lack of desks and chairs, and the conditions of some of the classrooms, especially the flooring, were dire.
I was also informed that the school was short of five educators and that volunteer teachers had been brought in to teach the learners. These volunteers are not always present or prepared for their classes.
While the school has admitted more learners than it should have, the addition of 11 mobile classrooms at the beginning of the year had relieved some of the overcrowding at the school. The mobiles had originally been placed at the school to accommodate learners for the planned phased building of a new brick and mortar school. The school had been selected as one of 21 schools in the province to be replaced under the department's infrastructure plan.
However, given the increase in numbers at the school at the beginning of the school year, the planned building of the first phase of the replacement school had to be delayed because the mobiles were instead being used to accommodate the additional learners, who had arrived late at the beginning of the school year. Pressure had been placed on the principal by members of the community to accept these learners which was in excess of the schools admission capacity.
After a tour of the school, I had a private meeting with the school principal and district officials to enquire as to why the school was in the current state that it is in. I will receive a full report.
I can, however, report back that communication lines between the school and the department seem to be one of the factors that have led to this. For instance, the school had not previously applied for additional educator posts to accommodate the increase of learners at the school.
I have made the commitment to rectify the situation as soon as possible by providing the school with additional teaching posts, as well as address the shortage of furniture at the school.
We have spoken to our suppliers who have made the undertaking to deliver approximately 150 to 200 desks and chairs to the school next Friday.
To address the learner numbers at the school, a new school is currently being built at a nearby site that will accommodate 800 of the learners. This morning, I visited the site where 18 to 20 mobiles will be placed and spoke to the contractors. They have assured me that the new school will be ready in June for learners at the start of the third term.
The WCED plans to begin building the new replacement school at ACJ Phakade PS once the 800 learners have been transferred to the other school site. This will allow our construction team to begin construction on the new school, which will be done in phases. All the necessary arrangements in this regard have been made.
This evening, our district officials will be meeting with the school's governing body and parents to discuss the plans I have mentioned above.
In summary, I would like to make clear that we regret what has happened at this school and we will fix the immediate problem as soon as possible. We will also make sure that any issues raised in the report will be addressed and actions taken against those that have failed to deliver their mandate. We will also endeavor to make sure that we avoid any similar situation occurring again.