Secondary students attending classes in outdoor teaching areas
Mphuthe Community Junior Secondary School in Letlhakeng village, 60 km from Molepolole, is a very depressing learning environment to observe. Upon arrival at the school, The Botswana Gazette team was welcomed by many students under trees, who starred at them for a long time as if they had nothing to do. Out of the 1003 pupils admitted at Mphuthe, four classes use outdoor teaching areas, three classes share a 31.7m x 11.7 meters hall, one class uses a pavilion, two classes use labs and the remaining 12 classes share normal classrooms. The open hall accommodates three classes comprising of over 130 students with a distance of about five meters between the classes.
During the lessons in the hall some students, dance and make noise during a Physical Education lesson while others in the neighbouring class struggle to concentrate during their theory lesson.
In an interview with a senior staff member who preferred anonymity, she complained that students in her school are being neglected, stating that, “the learning environment is not conducive at all. Even teachers are affected by teaching in open spaces. It is a big challenge,” she said, adding that during rainy season lessons are cancelled for outdoor teaching students.
Students also face a serious challenge as they do not have time to rest and or study because they wake up early in the morning and travel a long distance in a school bus to school and arrive back home late at night. The bus picks students from the villages of Metsibotlhoko and Sesung (25 and 15 km respectively.) Sometimes when the bus is not available, the school asks for council vehicles to ferry students and they sometimes take long to come to the school’s rescue, The Botswana Gazette has learnt. The next junior secondary school in the Letlhakeng sub-district is in Takatokwane which is 90km away.
Mphuthe is an 18 stream school, however it is running at 23 streams.
In an interview with one of the teachers, he lamented that Mphuthe situation is devastating. He said that classes are crowded. “While the ratio is that of one teacher to 40 students, here it’s a teacher to a minimum of 47 students. It affects performance because when you think of giving students class work, you also think of the load in marking. It is a challenge,” said the teacher. He added that students will not attain better results until the situation is addessed. The school has 38 teachers. The teacher also stated that they have a challenge of water in school. He said most of the time they go for many hours without water. The Botswana Gazette can confirm that last week Friday, the students did not eat anything from 0730 in the morning until 1330hrs when they left the school because there was no water in the morning. The students also eat the same meal everyday, maize rice and soup, according to the teacher.