Last week angry parents refused to vacate a school in Khayelitsha, near Cape Town, demanding their children be admitted. "They crammed their kids into classrooms by force," said ward councillor Andile Lili (ANC).
Noluvuyo Guzula, who is a parent and works as a cleaner at the school, said she and other parents forced their children into Enkanini Primary School in Zwelitsha because the trains are crammed and not safe.
"We want our kids to attend school within Zwelitsha, because they can't go to school in other townships when trains don't run," said Guzula. Her child was in Grade 3 at Vuzamanzi Primary School in Site C, Khayeltsha.
Children also came from Kuyasa, Nkazimlo and Noxolo Xauka primary schools.
"If we don't squeeze them into the new school [Enkanini], the department will never do anything to help them," she said.
"We don't want our kids to cross big, busy roads and railway lines before they reach their schools. We want them to attend school close by," said Lili.
A number of school children have been killed crossing roads.
A senior teacher said, "Because of the large number of learners, there will be no effective learning here ... Contact time with learners won't be enough. Remember, these kids are still in a foundation phase, where a teacher still has to show them how to handle a pencil."
"If they continue to learn in an overcrowded classroom, they may still be unable to write when they leave Grade 1," she warned.
The school currently accommodates learners up to Grade 5.
"We asked the department to give us 22 classrooms, but it has given us only 12. We want the department to bring about 14 classrooms which are idling at nearby Ludwe Ngamlana Primary School," said Lili.
Bronagh Hammond, director of communications at Western Cape's education department, said the mobile classrooms were "earmarked for various [other] projects".
"The demand for accommodation for schools in the area grew, and parents were not prepared to leave their children at the neighbouring schools ... Because of the demand for accommodation for learners in Grade 1-5, the department could not extend the school beyond Grade 5 in terms of capacity."
The second phase of the new Enkanini school project will see Grades 6 and 7 added, said Hammond. "Negotiations to secure and erect additional mobile classrooms are underway."
The interim school governing body is in the process of filling the last two vacant teacher posts. "This should relieve some of the overcrowding at the school," said Hammond.
The department also said learners receive a sandwich daily, milk once a week and fruit twice a week through the National Schools Nutrition Programme. Cooked meals will be provided when the necessary infrastructure is in place in the third term of 2018.