South Africa: As part of the plan to alleviate admission challenges within the City of Mbombela Local Municipality, the Mpumalanga Department of Education, in conjunction with its implementing agent, the Department of Public Works, Roads and Transport resolved to construct a total of 40 additional classrooms in four Primary schools in Mbombela.
The MEC for Education, Mr Bonakele Majuba; the MEC for Public Works, Roads and Transport, Mr Mandla Ndlovu and the Executive Mayor of the City of Mbombela, Cllr. Sibongile Makhushe ka Soko Mazibuko took a tour of inspection to assess progress made with regards to the construction of the 40 classrooms in Bergland Primary, Nelspruit Primary, Laerskool Laeveld and Nelspruit Laerskool.
In his remarks, MEC Majuba requested stakeholders to work together to ensure that the process of unlocking the admission challenges is fast-tracked and treated as an emergency for the sake of the development of the people of the city.
Furthermore, he thanked the authority for the invitation and said, “We thought it is imperative that we meet today to monitor progress as it relates to the construction of the 40 additional classrooms in the City of Mbombela as we plan for the 2023 school year.”
The City of Mbombela, unlike other towns, is fast growing, understandably so as it is the Capital City, host to the Government Complex, the Provincial High Court, University of Mpumalanga, and it is a gateway to almost all the tourist’s attractions, including the Kruger National Airport, Tourism Agencies and so on.
It is for this reason that there will always be an influx of people to this side of the Province for economic opportunities.
Every year we are inundated by applications for admission from parents who justifiably need space at schools in the city as most of them either reside here, work here or have a preference to have their children schooled here since they are of the view that the schools are better resourced and good performing academically.
He also mentioned that his mandate is to find ways and means to accommodate all of them within the constraints of resources at our disposal.
This admission challenge is exacerbated as some parents who are staying in the surrounding townships or villages who are working in town prefer that their children attend school in town to guarantee their children’s security.
As they come to work, they bring their children along, drop them at the nearest school, collect them during their lunchtime, make sure that they do their homework thereafter and drive back home in the afternoon.
This means that as much as priority is given to learners who are residing next to the school’s consideration must be given in instances such as this one.
The Department is of the view that the 40 additional classrooms will ease and eliminate the challenges of admission in primary schools in Mbombela.
The Department of Mpumalanga Education informed that in some cases, the new additional classrooms would replace the unwanted asbestos structures.
In other cases, schools have converted halls and recreational facilities such as laps to accommodate learners, and these schools are of the opinion that they will be in a position to free those facilities for their intended purposes now that there are new classrooms at their disposal.
This then still poses a challenge given that amid the efforts done by the circuit manager working with principals, the waiting lists of learners who are yet to be admitted are still long.
The other challenge, Executive Mayor, is that, as of now, there are no available sites for schools in town that can be considered to build new fully, fledged schools.
The Department has in its plans the establishment and construction of Mbombela City Primary and Mbombela City Secondary Schools. However, these plans cannot kick off the ground because there are no allocated sites.
The MEC of Education requests the municipality to advise the Department in this regard, considering the reasons we have advanced earlier, to find a workable solution to this matter so that we can serve the people of this city much better.
Furthermore, he stated that the lack of new schools is the reason why we decided that the primary schools should add more classrooms at times against the Departmental Norms and Standards simply to ensure that the Department is in a position to accommodate more learners.
The reason that the Department could not admit some of the deserving learners in schools within the town, some parents opted to register their children with nearby Independent Schools.
Most of these parents are now finding it very hard to cope with payment arrangements in these schools, and they are now reverting back to the public schooling system.
The high cost of living is also not doing us any favours as most parents are no longer able to afford payments of school fees.
Their only option is to enrol their children in public schools. The other reality is that COVID-19 devastated a lot of families, causing a number of people to relocate from their places of residence. As they did so, they brought along their children to be admitted to schools nearby.
As a caring Government, we are expected to consider the plight of such people.
It could have been ideal that the construction of classrooms moves with the necessary speed considering the kind of challenges that principals and school governing bodies are contending with.
We wish that, where possible, projects could be accelerated to enable the Department to spend on this financial year’s infrastructure allocation.
As things stand, the Department is underspending on infrastructure-related projects. The problem is that the underspending will affect the budget for outer years.
We are therefore pleading with all role-players to ensure all hands are on deck for a speedy solution on this matter.
We are also here to plead with school principals and school governing bodies to appreciate the constraints, demands, and limitations and work with the Department to address the challenges we face.
If there were promises made and fulfilled or promises made and not fulfilled, that must not suggest that the sun must not rise the following day.
We still have to forge ahead and together find lasting solutions to improve the services to our people.
The unfortunate reality, circuit manager, is that some of these challenges come with the territory, and for as long as we are in this space, we are bound to experience them.
I, therefore, request everyone to pull his or her sleeves to address whatever impediment relating to admissions for 2023 and to ensure that parents enjoy our warm reception.
I was interviewed on Ligwalagwala and Ikwekwezi FM, and listeners requested my contacts which I provided.
As a result of that, I am now receiving calls every minute about the placement of learners throughout the Province.
As I receive the calls from the public, I refer them to the HOD, who is expected to refer them to the District Director, who must refer them to the Circuit Manager and subsequently to the Principals for consideration.
In all that process, the ultimate aim is that a school-going age learner is constitutionally bound to be admitted to a school to learn.
The Department has serious budgetary constraints to be in a position to address all the challenges a go.
Be that as it may, we cannot throw our hands in the air and pronounce defeat.
We must soldier on to provide solutions irrespective of the misfortunes we find ourselves in.
Now that some classes are likely to be ready for use next year.
The Department must be in a position to assist with furniture, revise the post establishments to ensure that schools get adequate teachers, revise paper budgets and also assist with additional learner and teacher support material.
The District Director working with the Circuit Manager, will ensure the realization of this injunction.
Programme Director, I am aware that there are Principals of Secondary Schools who have joined us in this meeting.
Unlike Primary schools, their schools are not the beneficiaries of the additional classes we are talking about.
They are equally inundated with the issues of admissions, and they are finding it difficult to manage this situation.
Be that as it may, the same message we conveyed to principals of Primary schools applies to them.
They can also advise us on how best we can find a lasting solution on this matter of admission of learners.
We are very much receptive to new ideas that can help us to navigate forward smoothly.
Programme Director, please allow me to conclude by saying, as a collective, working together, we can overcome any challenge, only if there is a will.
I am also convinced that we are all willing to see a better city and an educated citizenry.
I am thus appealing to all stakeholders in this regard to pull in a single direction to overcome this challenge.