Education MEC discusses challenges with schools

Debbie Schäfer, MEC for Education in the Western Cape, visited four Ocean View schools on Friday, June 3.

She spent time at Marine and Kleinberg primary schools, Ocean View High and Ocean View School for Learners with Special Educational Needs (LSEN).

The visits were in response to upset expressed by Johann Kikillus of Soteria Ministries, who had raised issues of overcrowding at the four schools, concerns about safety for the children, worries about no growth space in high school for the next generations, as well as truancy; and the growth of youth gangs in the area, which he believes stem from the overcrowding at the schools.

Ms Schäfer also met with a community organisation that is assisting schools in Ocean View, and said she was encouraged by their desire to help the community in any way that they can.

Ms Schäfer said she is aware that there are a number of concerns regarding safety of the pupils and truancy at the schools. “But there is also an amazing resilience and commitment by principals to ensure that their learners receive the best quality education,” she said.

“Space is an issue, and we are trying to address this, within our severe budget constraints.”

With respect to building new schools, spokesperson for Ms Schäfer, Jessica Shelver, commented: “Most of the time we can predict where we will see strong growth in demand. We also plan for the unexpected, where possible.

“For example, we deployed about 200 mobile classrooms across the province in rapidly growing communities late last year and early this year. This made it possible for us to accommodate additional children in these areas more easily. While this additional planning was in place, we always face unexpected growth in various areas or certain grades that we cannot plan for.

“To accommodate the growth in numbers, we are building schools where we can. One of our biggest challenges is available land in the metros to do so. For example, the City of Cape Town can only expand northward, as people continue to move to Cape Town, because of limited space on the peninsula. “This movement to the city is placing huge demands on all resources, including demand for housing, schools, medical facilities and jobs.”

There is, however, positive change expected for Ocean View School for Learners with Special Educational Needs (LSEN).

The school deals with among the most vulnerable children in the area, those with a variety of special needs.

Although she could not give specific details, as these are still being finalised, Ms Shelver said a move was on the cards for them.

“We are pleased that the LSEN school will be in the near future moving to a new school building.”