23 October 2023
Equal Education statement: Gauteng Department of Education signals its commitment to alleviate overcrowding in schools
“We LCs [Leadership Committee Members] and Equalisers would like to thank Equal Education for standing up and fulfilling our wishes of having enough tables and chairs. The teachers and Equalisers are happy about the tables and chairs. May the Lord give you more strength to continue doing the campaign to other schools who are in need.”- Buhle Sibeko, Equal Education Equaliser (learner member)
Last week marked an important victory for Equal Education (EE) when three struggle sites in our school overcrowding campaign—Amos Maphanga Secondary, Tholulwazi Secondary, and Tembisa West Secondary schools—finally received a total of 440 desks and 400 chairs. This victory comes at a time when learners are preparing for their final examinations, meaning that schools can spend more time helping learners prepare for their exams instead of trying to create alternative seating arrangements to accommodate learners in overcrowded classrooms. However, a lot more is needed to end overcrowding in Gauteng schools.
This small but important victory comes two years after the launch of EE’s 2021 report on overcrowding in Gauteng schools, No Space for Us, and over a year since the Department of Basic Education (DBE) launched the Special Intervention Programme on Overcrowding in Schools (SIPOS). In May 2023, EE revisited the schools we organise in Etwatwa, Daveyton and Tembisa to assess progress made since 2019 when EE learner members (Equalisers) raised concerns about overcrowding in their schools. We found that many of the schools still face capacity issues; with many of the classrooms being overcrowded (having more learners than outlined in the school infrastructure law), and most schools experience furniture shortages (not having enough furniture for the number of learners). We were particularly shocked by the conditions we found at the three schools.
“I am so happy with the progress that we’ve made so far. Next month [November] on the 27th marks two years since the overcrowding campaign was launched and ever since then we have been working non-stop trying to tackle overcrowding in our schools. Seeing what we advocated for coming to life is very heartwarming and it motivates me to do more. Phambili ngemfundo, Phansi nge overcrowding!”- Mathapelo Dladla, Equal Education Facilitator
In Amos Maphanga Secondary School, we found the school only has mobile classrooms, most of which are in poor condition and have been there for at least 13 years. Tholulwazi Secondary School was originally built for 1 200 learners but now has to accommodate an additional 564 learners. Most of the classes we inspected at Tembisa West Secondary School had more learners than they should contain. In all three schools, we found that there were not enough desks and chairs in many of the classrooms, and the furniture that was there was in poor condition.
In September 2023, EE wrote letters to the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) alerting them to our findings, particularly at the three schools, and demanding relief for affected schools to create a more conducive teaching and learning environment. In response to our advocacy, and in line with its 2023 plans, the GDE finally provided the three identified schools with much-needed furniture: Amos Maphanga Secondary received 200 chairs and 100 desks, Tholulwazi Secondary received 200 chairs and 200 desks, and Tembisa West Secondary received 140 desks. Although this is not a permanent solution, the provision of adequate furniture helps reduce some of the discomfort learners in overcrowded schools face.
“It’s great to see our learners being able to write their exam with peace of mind. Although there aren’t enough chairs because the Department did not deliver any chairs, only desks. But EE did well by our children. Thank you EE, our only wish is for more schools in the area to get tables and chairs.” – Sifiso Mabena, Tembisa West High School SGB representative
Despite the provision of desks and chairs to these three schools, and even with the support provided by the SIPOS initiative, the GDE is not dealing with overcrowding with the urgency that is needed. The GDE’s 2023/24 Annual Performance Plan shows that over 723 Gauteng schools are overcrowded, with a shortage of 5 554 classrooms, a significant increase from 2021. Without a proactive plan to deal with overcrowding, learners will continue to struggle to fully enjoy their right to quality education.
EE demands a more urgent response from the GDE in dealing with overcrowding issues in Gauteng schools. We also appeal to the GDE to meet with us to discuss progress made on the recommendations in our 2021 report, particularly on developing a forward looking infrastructure plan that would provide a more permanent fix and prevent future conditions we found in these schools and many others in Gauteng.
To arrange a media interview, contact:
Jay-Dee Booysen (Equal Education Communications Manager) firstname.lastname@example.org or 082 924 1352