Eastern Cape learners walk more than 30km to a school without teachers for them

No scholar transport, no maths or English teacher

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Photo of learners in countryside
Learners walk for hours to get to Sotinini High School, only to find they have to teach themselves. Photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

In Peddie in the Eastern Cape, some learners at Sotinini High School walk for more than three hours to get to school, and when they get there they have to teach themselves.

Ward councillor Mlungiseleli Luzipho said some learners were walking 30km a day.

This school has only two teachers and a principal to teach 140 learners from grade 8 to grade 12.

GroundUp reported in 2017 that parents were asking the Eastern Cape Department of Education to add at least an English teacher.

The English teacher retired in early 2017. Another teacher died in 2016 and neither was replaced. After GroundUp published the story, one teacher was added for a few months.

School governing body chairperson Khuthele Khunjuzwa said the teacher was taken from another school and she did not return in 2018.

“Since then we’ve been in and out of the department’s offices in King William’s town asking them to add more teachers and they keep on promising but that never happened,” said Khunjuzwa.

He said last year the number of learners was low because some parents took their children to schools in town due to the lack of teachers at Sotinini.

“But most of us do not have a choice. We can not afford to take our children to schools in town, since we rely on social grants,” said sad Khunjuzwa.

He said at the last meeting with the ECDoE in October 2019, the department had promised to provide scholar transport for learners who live more than 5km away from the school and to add teachers.

“We made all the necessary applications for teachers and for scholar transport,” said Khunjulwa.

When they told parents that the department has promised to add more teachers, the school received more applications from grade 8 learners.

“We informed the department about this increase. We were promised that teachers will be sent in January but that never happened,” he said.

Khunjuzwa said since January they had visited the department at least three times asking for teachers with no luck. They had even been to the Eastern Cape Legislature in Bisho asking for help, but came back with nothing.

“We have children who are hungry for education, who walk hours to school, just to come here to a class with no teachers. This is sad,” he said.

Ayabonga Jijana is a grade 12 learner who would like to study nursing at university next year. But she has no English, Maths or Life Science teacher. Jijana leaves home at 6am and walks in a group with other learners as the gravel road to school passes through bush and is not safe.

“If I miss the others I stay at home rather than go to school alone because it’s not safe at all.”

During the English, Maths and Life Science periods learners try to teach themselves, she says.

The school received a 27% matric pass rate last year, dropping down from 54% in 2018 and 64% in 2017.

Another grade 12 learner Sinawo Nyhamsu told GroundU that he leaves home at 5am to get to school at 8am.

“After walking the long distance, you must prepare to teach yourself for four period because there are no teachers,” said Nyhamsu.

“The department must assist us with scholar transport and teachers. This thing of neglecting schools in villages has to stop. We also want to be top achievers one day and our names to be announced on television,” he said.

Parents who were at the school when GroundUp visited last week, said they do not know who to ask for help.

ECDoE spokesperson Loyiso Pulumani said the department had noticed an increase of 90 learners at Sotinini and three new teachers had been appointed to start in the second school term. He said the staff numbers were decided in September on the basis of the number of learners at that time.

He said the school should re-apply for scholar transport.

TOPICS:  Education

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