TONOTA: Leaders in Tonota village are concerned about shortage of classrooms and the dilapidated condition of buildings at Tonota Junior Secondary School (JSS).
Tonota JSS is one of the schools that performed badly in the 2019 Junior Certificate Examinations (JCE) scoring 28.5% pass. The school attained position 61 out of 80 schools in the Central region under the same examination.
A nasty picture circulated on social media recently showing some of Tonota JSS students being taught in a poultry house, which is used as an alternative classroom.
Mmegi spoke to some of the community leaders to get their views about the situation after failing to get an interview from the school head.
Tonota legislator, Pono Moatlhodi said in an interview that the situation at Tonota JSS was worrisome.
Moatlhodi indicated that the school infrastructure was damaged beyond repair.
He said the school was not in a conducive state to house students hence it was crucial for the Ministry of Basic Education (MoBE) to take action before anyone is hurt.
Moatlhodi also said the whole school was damaged and needed a wholesale revamping with immediate effect.
The Member of Parliament said when he visited the school recently, he found some of the students being taught in a poultry house because there was shortage of classrooms.
Moatlhodi also indicated that the school laboratories and computer rooms were worse and only two classes were in a better state.
“How do we expect the students to pass their examinations and tests if they are being crucified in this manner? The government needs to come up with a better solution as soon as possible rather than tormenting the students,” Moatlhodi said.
He also said that the school condition demoralised both the teachers and students, including the parents hence not delivering on their academic performance.
“I reported the matter to the relevant minister and he promised that he will visit the school so as to address the situation.”
Moatlhodi also shared that Letlhabile JSS, which is in Tonota, was equally affected by the problem. For his part, Tholodi ward councillor, Neo Sefume said the unsettling situation at Tonota JSS was giving the community endless headaches.
He said the school was a complete disaster-in-waiting, as it did not have classrooms, staffroom offices and other teaching facilities.
Sefume gave an example that currently six heads of departments (HODs) share a congested office (6m by 3m in size). It can be suffocating and unhealthy because the space is small to accommodate such a number, he said. He pointed out a need to upgrade at least five additional classroom blocks, four offices and six specialised rooms.
The disturbed councillor also raised an issue about shortage of school furniture such as chairs and tables including books for both the teachers and students.
He further said what compounded the situation was that electricity cables were in a bad state, so such that they might pose a hazard to students, teaching and non-teaching staff.
He also said there was shortage of water and the toilets did not cater for the number of the students. Sefume said most of the toilets in the school were in unfavourable condition to an extent of having 80% of them leaking on a daily basis which is unhygienic.
“There is lack of maintenance for the school property. The Information Technology (IT) laboratory needs to be serviced and equipped. The most frustrating issue is that they introduced the music department which did not have a class,” he added.
The concerned councillor said the teacher to student ratio was very high as one teacher taught about 60
He said some of the classes were conducted at the school’s poultry house, which was contaminated, unhealthy and inappropriate.
He further disclosed that the multi-purpose hall housed three different classes whereas it is not partitioned.
Sefume said some of the open spaces have been converted into classrooms, which proved that teachers were doing everything in their power to teach the students against all odds.
“Teachers are doing everything in their power to deliver to the students, but at the end they will be blamed for the poor results. They are sacrificing a lot just to provide a good education to the students,” he said.
On another note, the Tholodi ward councillor raised a concern about the absence of a primary school in Tonota West.
He said due to the situation, pupils, including pre scholars, Standard 1s up to 7, are expected to walk long distances to access schools in other parts of the village.
For instance, he said some of the students walk about eight kilometres to their primary school to attend classes, though at the end of the day they were expected to pass their examinations.
He urged the government to consider building a primary school for students from Tonota West and save them from travelling close to 16km to and from school.
When responding to the concerns raised by the leaders, Central region director, Sonny Mooketsi said Tonota JSS has accommodated more and more students over the years, though the facilities have not increased in size. He added that there was a general shortage of classrooms and staff houses.
He also said a total of 377 students were affected by shortage of teaching/learning space.
“All the six Form 1 classes do not have base classrooms. Three classes are using outdoor teaching area and three are taught in the multipurpose hall. Form 2 classes are also affected as two classes are using the partitioned pavilion building and one class is using an old poultry structure,” Mooketsi added.
The director stated that currently Tonota JSS teacher to student ratio was 1:13 as there were 832 students and 59 permanent and pensionable officers together with six temporary teachers, making a total of 67 teachers.
“Teacher student ratio is a total number of students divided by total number of teachers; 832/67. However, the situation for core subjects is different as it goes to 1:45.”
When speaking about other challenges experienced by Tonota JSS, Mooketsi said there is a general shortage of teaching/learning facilities and offices and shortage of staff houses.
He added that the school is also faced with a problem of shortage of furniture (chairs and desks) together with incessant power outages and there is need for power upgrade.
In trying to address the situation, Mooketsi said the government has proposed a project of pre-fabricated classroom blocks of (four classrooms) to be erected at the school starting in the financial year 2020/2021.
He also said the region has requested for additional five classrooms looking at the situation on the ground.
“The ministry is in the process of purchasing 30 Botswana Housing Corporation (BHC) houses for staff accommodation in this financial year 2020/2021 in Tatisiding and these houses will be shared amongst the secondary schools in Tonota, including Tonota JSS.”
Mooketsi also mentioned that the Department of Technical Services (DTS) has drafted a scope of works for power upgrading at the school. The project is planned for 2020/2021 financial year.