Bulawayo needs 25 more schools Mr Christopher Dube

Nqobile Tshili/Vululwazi Nkala, Chronicle Writers

BULAWAYO needs at least 25 primary schools to address hot sitting, which has seen areas such as Cowdray Park having three-in-one schools as it battles crowding.

A three-in-one school is an education institution with a pupil population that should be accommodated in three schools yet learn in one facility largely due to the shortage of schools.

This results in pupils and educators sharing limited infrastructure and, in some instances, pupils learning under trees while waiting to share classrooms. 

Cowdray Park Primary School has about 2 500 learners while Mahlathini Primary School has about 2 800 learners, against an ideal standard of 1 200 pupils per school.

Bulawayo Town Clerk Mr Christopher Dube, who was represented by the city’s director of housing and social service, Mr Dictor Khumalo, said ordinarily the city should construct a primary within 500 household radius but this is not the case, as the population continues to outweigh service delivery.

He was speaking during the commissioning of classroom blocks and infrastructure for seven schools in the city at Cowdray Park High School built under the public-private partnership between the Government and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which injected US$1,6 million towards the project.

The city council-run Mkhithika Thebe Primary School in Cowdray Park also benefited from the programme through the construction of an Early Childhood Development (ECD) classroom block.

The situation is even dire for Cowdray Park suburb, which despite being the second most populous suburb in the country with 75 070 people, according to the 2022 population census, lags behind in terms of services delivery including schools.

“The added infrastructure will go a long way and help reduce hot sitting in schools, particularly, in the Cowdray Park area. 

“According to Council Town Planning Standards, it is expected that for every 500 households, a primary school should be provided and in every 1 500 households, a secondary school should be provided,” said Mr Khumalo.

“Following these standards vis-a-vis household growth over years, the city is estimated to have a backlog of +/- 25 primary schools that are required to reduce hot sitting that is currently being faced.”

He said some of the schools have double enrolment that is way above what they should accommodate, which is not ideal for the delivery of quality education.

“Council schools, particularly in Cowdray Park, have enrolments sitting around 2 500 on average, with Mahlathini having the highest numbers at 2 800 learners. In these schools, there are triple sessions that were introduced in order to accommodate learners and this is not a good situation in our quest to deliver quality education,” said Mr Khumalo. 

He appealed for more players to partner with the education sector in building more schools. The construction of new schools is expected to reduce the teacher-to-pupil learner ratio, which is key in assessing the learner’s growth.

“As we accept this donation by the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints, we implore other stakeholders to emulate this kind gesture by the church and assist in funding the construction of new schools that will ensure improvement on net enrolment ratio and reduce walking distances travelled by learners to the nearest school,” said Mr Khumalo.

“Council is amenable to similarly minded partnerships that will improve school infrastructure and impact positively on the education of our children.”

Mr Khumalo said council remains committed to providing quality education in the city, including construction of new schools.

BCC, in its 2024 budget, said it will construct a new school in the coming year. — @nqotshili/@vululwazi 

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