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Alex Japho Matlala
For the past 28 years, the ANC-led government has been trying to eradicate shack, mud and tree classrooms in South African schools. But hundreds of pupils in a Limpopo school are still forced to brave the cold winter weather to attend lessons in the open.
On rainy days and in winter, more than 500 pupils from Lwaphungu Secondary School in Tshiungani village outside Musina are forced to attend lessons from 7am to 5pm under trees.
The school has 896 pupils and only two dilapidated classrooms, three ageing mobile classrooms and four big trees, which they use as classrooms.
In 2002, the government of the day built four proper classrooms, two of which are used as the principal’s and teachers’ offices. In 2004, the department provided the school with four mobile classrooms, one of which is currently used by teachers as a staff room.
“We applied for an extra pair of school blocks, but it seems our pleas always fell on deaf ears,” school governing body chair Phineas Tshibalo said on Thursday. “The department would always send us from pillar to post because nothing came out of the promises they made.”
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According to Tshibalo, the school achieved a 54% matric pass by rate last year. This, he said, was because the morale of both teachers and pupils was low.
“Everyone knows how hot Limpopo is. During the peak of summer, classes rotate around the trees in an endeavour to get shade. Worse, during the rainy season, we are forced to send kids home because there is nowhere to hide. MEC, we are on our knees asking for extra classrooms.”
A Grade 12 pupil at the school, Amanda Mutavhatshindi, said: “I told my parents I want to be a pilot when I complete my studies. But it looks like my dreams are doomed already.
“I also want to make a plea to the MEC: my future and that of my schoolmates, lies in your hands. Please help us realise our dreams by providing us new blocks of classrooms.”
A temporary Grade 9 teacher said when it was hot, sometimes venomous snakes hide in tree branches and fall when pupils clap their hands. He said another problem was social distancing which was not observed at the school because of overcrowding.
“If we continue like this, we will all test positive for Covid,” he said.
Education MEC Polly Boshielo this week handed over a R20 million school to the community of Rita and Tickyline in Tzaneen. The department has set aside R1.5 billion for the current financial year to address issues of school infrastructure.
Asked why pupils at Lwaphungu Secondary School still attend lessons under trees, 20 years after the school was built, spokesperson Tidimalo Chuene said the department of education was aware of and concerned about the conditions of the school.
She said the needs of the school would be bumped up the infrastructure priority list.
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