221 pupils packed in one class

Parents call for government intervention.

AN EAST London school has more than 200 Grade R pupils crammed into a single prefab classroom each day, with only a single Grade R teacher.

OVERCROWDED: More than 200 Grade R pupils cram in one classroom at Sinempumelelo Primary School in Nompumelelo informal settlement in Beacon Bay Picture: ALAN EASON
OVERCROWDED: More than 200 Grade R pupils cram in one classroom at Sinempumelelo Primary School in Nompumelelo informal settlement in Beacon Bay

Given the high temperatures and humidity in the city over the last few weeks, parents with children at Sinempulelelo Primary School are very concerned at the cramped conditions under which their children are expected to learn.

Parents and some of the teachers at the school said there were 221 pupils in the Grade R class.

A mother of two, Nosimamkele Heshu, said her children had yet to start learning because there were too many of them to be taught by the single Grade R teacher.

“There used to be three Grade R classrooms, but this year there is only one classroom allocated to Grade R pupils. We want to know where the other two classes are.

“It is not fair that our children are squashed in there all morning,” she said.

“This is the only primary school in the area, so it is only natural that we send our children here,” she added.

Heshu said their children were expected to start Grade 1 next year but she was worried about their progress.

“Children usually know how to write their names by the time they get to Grade 1. What are the chances of these children knowing how to do that when their learning conditions are not conducive,” she asked.

The Daily Dispatch arrived at the school yesterday unannounced after receiving a tip-off about the conditions.

The weather in East London reached a maximum of 31°C and, on arrival at the school, the team found more than 200 children seated on the floor of the prefabricated structure.

In the sweltering heat, children in full school uniform were squashed against one another and expected to listen to the teacher.

At noon when school ends for Grade R, the sweat-drenched youngsters were allowed to leave, to be met by parents outside the classroom.

A teacher, who identified herself only as Miss Ntsabo, ordered the Daily Dispatch team to leave the school premises because they were not invited by “the head of the institution”.

A parent, who asked to remain anonymous, said as the school had allowed all the children to be accepted, the state should intervene and rectify the situation.

“That classroom is too hot, diseases are bound to spread in that heat and limited breathing space.

“Even if a child collapses because of the heat, the teacher won’t see them because it is too crowded.

“Even if they did see the pupil, how quickly could they reach them in the overcrowded classroom?” she asked.

Provincial education spokesman Loyiso Pulumani said the ratio per classroom should be one teacher to every 35 pupils.

“That [221] is a huge number. The government resolution that compelled Grade R to be linked to local schools is three years old.

“Our enthusiasm has not been met by the national resource allocation. We need to avail more classrooms in primary schools [to cope with the influx of Grade R pupils],” he said.

“The case you are talking about is an extreme case.

“There is a political instruction to the effect that temporary structures be provided to overcrowded schools while more permanent arrangements are being made,” he said.

Pulumani said the temporary structures would be rolled out from the first week of February.

“Unfortunately the school will have to wait its turn to get its structure. I am not sure how far they are on the list.

“We urge the parents and children to please bear with us,” he added.

Another parent, Sakhumzi Kundulu, said they were promised that the school governing body would arrange with the department that funds be made available for a structure to be put up.

“They [SGB] said they would have this sorted out but we are not getting anywhere.

“In the mornings we, as parents, are forced to clean that Grade R class because it is dirty. It is too small, there is no space to lay out desks because then not all the children will fit,” he said.

Nompumelelo ward councillor Makhaya Bopi said they were aware of the problem at the school.

“The ward committee and the SGB are going to meet this week to discuss a way forward,” Bopi added. —


  1. When schools were refusing to accept children because of overcrowding, the Education department stepped in and demanded that the schools accept the students.
    Live with it!! You are getting exactly what you voted for.