Call to ease squeeze at Hout Bay High

Parents and children from the community outside Hout Bay High School during a peaceful protest.

Hout Bay High School has too many pupils and too few teachers, say parents and community leaders.

They protested at the Hangberg school late last month, and community activist Roscoe Jacobs says a “memorandum of demand” was handed over to the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) about the situation at the school. It had been meant for MEC Debbie Schäfer but had been accepted by a subordinate, he said.

“This school was built in the apartheid era and could accommodate about 250 pupils, but currently, the school has almost doubled its number of pupils with only 11 teachers available,” he said.

The principal, Juan Julius, had to both teach and run the school, he said.

“The principal is being counted as someone who must have a class. If that’s the case, then this is unacceptable as managing a school is a full-time job.”

Twice when the Sentinel phoned the school to ask to speak to Mr Julius, we were told he was in a class teaching.

Mr Jacobs believes the WCED’s plan for growth in the area has failed.

“Next year, we will have another 140 to 160 learners from the five primary schools in Hout Bay, coming to Hout Bay High School. We need more classes and a bigger school. We still have learners who haven’t been placed.”

WCED spokeswoman Bronagh Hammond said 12 teaching posts had been allocated to Hout Bay High School based on numbers from July 2019.

“In early February, the school was provided an additional teaching post, making their staff establishment 13. Therefore, the allocation of posts to learners is 35:1. The school is trying to source an educator with the intention of finding an Afrikaans home language educator. Hopefully this will be sourced soon,” Ms Hammond said.

According to the WCED, Grade 8 enrolment this year was particularly high, with 140 pupils for three available classes (that’s at least 46 pupils per class). But the matrics have 20 pupils for each class.

Mr Jacobs doesn’t agree with the department’s ratio.

“Look, the department is stating that the ratio is 35:1, but how, when we still have classes with 50-plus pupils?”

The memorandum demanded class sizes of 35 pupils; four extra teaching posts; and a plan to tackle the school’s growth and Hangberg’s future education needs.

“We have received a response from the WCED, but we feel as if they are shifting the responsibility and not addressing the issues at hand,” Mr Jacobs said.

Malecia Valentine, of Hangberg, has a niece at the school.

“My niece always gets very good grades, but now she struggles to focus because there are so many pupils inside, and sometimes it could be hard for the teachers to control this number of pupils in the classroom.”

The school should be extended because it served a large part of Hout Bay, she said.

“This school has been here for years.

“I attended this school, my kids attended this school, and now my niece is here. The number is growing rapidly, but the size of the school and classes remain the same.

“This will end up affecting our kids’ education, and only when half of them start failing – something I hope does not happen – only then will the WCED probably end up doing something.”

Mr Julius did not respond to questions by the time of going to print.