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The first day of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education’s oversight visit in the Nkangala education district in Mpumalanga began this week with a visit to the Leonard Ntshuntshe Secondary School in Emalahleni.

This is one of the well-performing schools visited by the Committee and boasts a pass rate of 97%, 99% and 97% in the National Senior Certificate examinations for the past three years. At the onset of the meeting, Committee Chairperson Ms Nomalungelo Gina praised the Committee for this outstanding performance.

However, she indicated that the Committee also wants to hear of the school’s challenges, such as high enrolment figures. The principal told the Committee that the school is a victim of its own success, as student enrolments have increased and there are 60 to 68 students per class. Ms Gina discouraged the school from taking on more learners than it can accommodate comfortably.

The principal also highlighted several social challenges, including theft, drugs and child-headed households. The school is situated between a cemetery and a park, with drug dealing on both sides and drug dealers living in the cemetery. Several burglaries have also occurred.

The school has approximately 72% over-age learners including a 23-year-old in Grade 12. These learners posed a threat to both educators and learners, the principal claimed. Committee Member Ms Sonia Boschoff express her concerns regarding over-age learners. Another Committee Member, Mr Xolani Ngwesi, enquired about the maintenance of the school borehole.

The Committee then split into two groups with group one visiting Marhagi Secondary in Kwaggafontein East. Here the Committee expressed concern that Grade 12 results have been dropping, something the school attributed to experienced teachers moving to other schools and less experienced people taking their place. The school is also overcrowded.

The Committee also heard that faction fighting that starts in communities has a tendency to play itself out at school. The Committee tasked the Mpumalanga Education Department to look into the shortage of textbooks at the school.

The next stop was Verena Senior Primary, which caters for grades 7 to 9. Theft and vandalism was highlighted as a challenge along with minimal parent involvement in a community that had high numbers of child-headed households. Ms Gina questioned whether learners were reading with comprehension, as it took teachers a long time to complete lessons. The Committee urged the Provincial Education Department to assist in filling vacant posts at the school.

The last stop for group one was Wolvenkop Special School, which caters for hearing impaired learners and learners with severe intellectual challenges. Situated on a farm far from the nearest village, the Committee was impressed with the school management, infrastructure and the quality of work being done with the students. Ms Boschoff said: “It makes my heart happy to know these learners are being cared for like this.”

The oversight visit concluded with a wrap-up meeting with education officials.

Rajaa Azzakani
2 February 2018