THE lack of furniture at Eastern Cape schools poses major challenges for children who either have to sit on broken chairs or stand while listening to their teachers during class.
Some schools are in dire need of chairs and desks for pupils and some even need tables for their teachers.
In August last year the Eastern Cape Education Department announced it would refurbish unused school furniture through the Further Education Training (FET) Colleges to make sure schools do not have insufficient furniture for pupils and teachers.
In November last year the Legal Resources Centre and the Centre for Child Law secured a settlement agreement with the National and Provincial Department of Basic Education that should result in the end of the furniture problems of thousands of pupils in the Eastern Cape.
A 2011 audit of furniture needs in the province found that more than half-a-million children at Eastern Cape schools needed furniture and that about R270-million would be required to address the shortages.
Masiphathisane Senior Secondary School in NU 1 in Motherwell needs 500 desks and 500 chairs. The principal, Mzoli Maarman, was not available for comment but one of the teachers, who asked not to be named, said the children found it difficult to do their work in the classrooms.
The school has 1549 children and 48 teachers. “The situation is pathetic. We have written to the department’s district office in Port Elizabeth several times but have heard nothing. We even use the lab because there are chairs and desks there. Some of the children stand in class or sit on two or three-legged chairs,” the teacher said.
Masibambane Senior Secondary School in Kwazakhele, needs 250 chairs, 119 desks and 24 tables for their teachers.
Masibambane principal Bongani Gade said the budget provided to the school was not enough to buy the furniture. “For a desk to serve two pupils costs about R420 and a chair about R100,” he said.
A teacher, who did not give his name, at Ilinge Primary School in Uitenhage, said the 28 classrooms are each in need of four double desks, that come with seats attached to them.
There are more than 1000 children and 31 teachers at the school.
“We are a Section 20 school and get our furniture from the department but these are of poor quality and break quickly. The primary school children use desks and chairs that belong to the Grade R classrooms. We hardly reach out to private companies for donations and rely mostly on the Education Department,” the Ilinge school teacher said.
John Bisseker Secondary School principal Aubrey Lackay said the East London based school was desperate for assistance.
The school which was built 75 years ago for 800 children, now has 1560 pupils.
“The subsidy we get from the department is insufficient. The last we received furniture from the department was about 20 years ago.
“We are located in an area where most of the parents are unemployed,” Lackay said.
The Eastern Cape Education Department did not respond to media queries.
So far, only Continental Tyre SA came back about the schools’ requests for furniture donation.
Their spokeswoman, Gishma Johnson, said they had noted an increase in furniture requested over the last couple of months.