R20m pledged to fix John Bisseker amid community upheaval

OUTRAGE: Pupils and parents from John Bisseker gather at the school towards the end of April.Progress on attending to infrastructural and teaching challenges at John Bisseker Secondary School remains incremental after the department met with parents and the school governing body on May 6, promising to attend to the concerns within the week.

The SGB confirmed that the department has pledged R20m towards fixing the school.

Classes for all grades except the matrics at John Bisseker have been suspended since April 24, after a protest by parents and pupils ensued.

The protest highlighted broken infrastructure, water and sanitation risks, staff shortages, and low pass rates as serious concerns requiring intervention from the department.

The protest also led to the closure of the back building of the school which is beginning to split from the staircase, posing a safety risk to pupils and teachers who use the eight rooms in the building for English and maths.

After the meeting on May 6, the department has promised to begin addressing the challenges starting with cost assessments.

The department has also escalated the conclusion of outstanding appointments for a deputy principal and a head of the department, which should be concluded by June.

The school released a statement on May 8, encouraging parents to allow the grade 11s to return to the school. However, pupils remain afraid for their safety.

One pupil said “There is a lot that needs to be fixed, not just the back building.

“There are no windows, the doors don’t close and in winter, the rain and wind hit us, forcing the teachers to send us home.

“This year, we have already been sent home a lot of times because of the rain.

“We are scared every day of that back building just falling apart and taking us with it but we have our most important subjects in that building.

“We are so stressed because we are losing class time and when we are allowed to come back to school it’s going to put us under so much pressure because then we have to work even harder to catch up.

“There are barely any teachers, no extracurricular activities.

“We hardly had an English teacher at the start of the year.”

Due to the lagging teacher redeployment processes, the school was left with a shortage of five teachers which contributed towards the low grade 8 pass average of 10% for term one.

One parent said both her sons in grade 8 failed.

“I am angry because my children want to be at school but we can’t send them to school because it’s not safe. Every year we have to fight for the department’s commitment to fixing the school.

“We hope that the department can prioritize our case because June exams are coming up and we can’t afford for our children to fail again.

“All we ask is for the department to fix the buildings and supply enough teachers because that’s what all children are entitled to.”

CONCERNING SITUATION: The staircase is breaking away from the rest of the back building. Pictures: TAMMY FRAY

Most of the classrooms have been without electricity, there is only one functioning tap for 1,370 pupils, and only 11 ablution units.

The school is 80 years old and its refurbishment should have begun as early as 2008 but principal Richard Joubert said the department has been dragging its feet in this regard.

Joubert said: “We are an underperforming school so the closure of the school is having a very negative impact.

“Everyone is anxious, from parents to pupils and teachers, including myself because once teaching time is lost it cannot be recovered.

“We are formulating our catch-up plans but we aren’t sure yet what shape this will take.

“We are still trying to see from our side how we can work around losing the whole back building’s classrooms especially because our school already has a problem with overcrowding.

“All classes are big, especially the juniors who have more than 50 pupils in each class,” Joubert said.


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