Heathfield High in dire need

Heathfield High School is in a financial crisis.

Heathfield High School is desperately appealing for help.

The school in Consta Road, Heathfield, might have to scale down on subjects if an appeal for more financial support from the education department is not met.

Last term the school had to let go of five School Governing Body (SGB) appointed teachers.

The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) pays for a certain number of teachers and additional teachers paid from SGB funds.

The SGB was unable to pay their salaries because school fees were not paid.

Principal Wesley Neumann said staff and pupils had had various fund-raisers and done all they could to make up for their financial shortfall and even approached the WCED about the school’s ranking in the quintile system.

The school is ranked a quintile five school.

All South African public schools are categorised into five groups, called quintiles, for the purposes of the allocation of financial resources. Quintile one is the “poorest” quintile and quintile five is the “least poor”.

The poverty rankings are determined nationally according to the poverty of the community around the school and infrastructural factors.

Schools in quintile one, two and three are no-fee schools and schools in quintiles four and five are fee-paying schools.

This ranking then determines the amount of funding the school receives from the WCED every year by allocating a certain amount of money per pupil – the lower quintiles get more financial support to compensate for their loss in fee income. Quintiles one to three receive R1 390 a pupil,
quintile four receives R697 a
pupil and quintile five receives R241 per pupil.

Schools have various expenses to consider including municipal service fees such as water and electricity, stationery and learning support materials including textbooks, equipment such as a fax machine for administrative purposes and maintenance repairs.

Mr Neumann said each pupil received R240 for the entire year to contribute to those expenses.

“It is hopelessly too little. The cheapest textbook is R350, so that is not even enough to buy one textbook. For that so we have to make up the shortfall.

“Heathfield High is situated in an affluent area but we are a commuter school so most of our learners come from Lavender Hill, Cafda, Capricorn and Westlake. What we find is that parents are struggling to pay school fees and that has a direct impact on curriculum delivery at school. We need the school fees to be paid or to get more support,” he said.

About two years ago the school applied to the WCED to review the school’s status.

“We sent through motivation and did a survey about where our learners come from but unfortunately they came back to us two weeks ago and turned down our application. It is very disappointing,” he said.

Mr Neumann said the WCED advised that the school needed to scale down its curriculum and subjects offered.

“We have a problem with that because that limits the opportunities for the learners. We need to keep the curriculum as is with music, accounting, physics and maths.

“These learning areas are key for the future. Music develops creative thinking so we do not want to take away music. The quintile system
is an injustice because we cannot survive on the amount provided by the department,” said Mr Nuemann.

Bronagh Hammond, director of communications for the WCED, said the department are aware of the school’s attempt to have their quintile status changed.

Ms Hammond said the department was, however, compelled to adhere to the poverty distribution table for the placement of schools in quintiles.

“In the Western Cape, 40% of our schools are no-fee schools, and we have campaigned hard to try and increase this amount, however, we have yet to get any success.

“In 2013, the department offered some schools based on certain criteria, no-fee status. This did not change their quintile status, however, we were able to provide some quintile 4 and 5 schools with no-fee status, at our own cost. The department has to fund these additional 224 schools every year without funding from national government. Therefore, while we would like to increase the amount of no-fee schools, we simply cannot do this without additional funding from national government,” said Ms Hammond.

The department conceded that because of the quintile policy, many schools that were classified as quintile four or five that served poor communities, found themselves in a dire position because of their own funding constraints and the impact of a continued rise in poverty.

Education MEC Debbie Schafer said: “If there is one record I have had on repeat for the past five years – it is the record on inadequate funding within the system for our province. The quintile system, a national policy, is failing our children. Whilst there has been a little movement by National Treasury in responding to the changing numbers in population, it is inadequate and too slow. It also does not address the historical shortfalls that we have been carrying for a number of years.

“As a result, we are increasingly seeing more and more school protests complaining about over-
crowding and the need for additional teachers,” she said.

“The iniquitous national quintile policy is having a severe impact on our poorer schools, affecting both our conditional grant for school feeding, and norms and standards allocations,” she said.

Mr Neumann appealed to the school’s alumni, to the broader community and anyone who is able to, to support them to reappoint the five tea-
chers.

The school has also started a petition to hand over to the WCED to plead their case.

To find out how you can help or to sign the petition, contact the school on 021 715 4622.