For years, the parents' association of the Indira Gandhi primary school battled to get rid of the prefabricated classrooms in which their children had to be taught and they finally succeeded. The only memory of those classrooms now is the road that the council has named after the parents' association, in recognition of their efforts.
This story had a happy ending, but that is rather unusual. The lack of educational infrastructure on the Costa del Sol has always been an unfortunate reality, and the idea of schools without prefabricated classrooms is hard to imagine. Although over time many have gone because the schools have been enlarged, the rapid growth in population in some of these towns means the situation is likely to become more difficult over the next few years, and at the moment the Junta de Andalucía does not seem to have a specific plan to deal with the problem.
When asked about this, the branch office in Malaga said that the Andalusian Education Agency (APAE) will be meeting "soon" to approve the 2021 infrastructure plan. Meanwhile, the population is growing exponentially each year, which is worrying in terms of school capacity. In the Mijas and Fuengirola area, the population has increased by around 5,000, but it is not alone. Marbella has increased by 4,000 inhabitants, Estepona 2,000 and, on the other side of the province, Rincón de la Victoria has seen similar growth.
In fact, Rincón is a graphic example of the problem facing the administrations. Barely a year after a fourth secondary school was inaugurated, in Torre de Benagalbón, following years of protests by local residents about overcrowded schools, the Junta de Andalucía has had to start planing for a fifth school in the municipality, where the population has doubled in the past 20 years and has now reached nearly 50,000.
The new secondary school will be in the Parque Victoria urbanisation, north of the motorway, in La Cala del Moral, on a 9,000 square metre plot ceded by the council. The Junta will spend 4.2 million euros on this school, which will have capacity for 360 pupils.
There is a similar problem in Mijas, which now has the third highest population after Malaga city and Marbella. The Junta de Andalucía has designed a specific plan for schools there, including the extension and remodelling of the Jardín Botánico school at a cost of 2.6 million euros.
There are also plans to extend the secondary school in La Cala de Mijas and build a new secondary school in Las Lagunas, and plans are being finalised or contracts are being put to tender for extending the Torre Almenara secondary school and adapting the Indira Ghandi school.
The Junta also announced last year that it is to build a new secondary school in Benalmádena Pueblo, and extend the Concha Méndez Cuesta secondary school in Torremolinos and primary schools including the Mariana Pineda in Arroyo de la Miel, Ramón Lago in Estepona and José Banús in Nueva Andalucía.
There are 44 projects to build, extend or improve schools in 19 municipalities in Malaga province at a cost of nearly 37.1 million euros, but many of these have not yet begun.
Elsewhere on the western Costa del Sol the situation is similar. In Marbella, parents of pupils at the Vargas Llosa have been calling for a new school for the past ten years, but with no success. The children started their schooldays in prefabricated classrooms on a site in Trapiche Norte, where the present school was eventually built. Years later, when moving up from primary school, they found themselves in the same situation and are being taught in prefabricated classrooms again. Work is due to begin on a new school this year, although the pupils will have to travel 11 kilometres from their homes to get there.
In Estepona, there are plans to extend the Isdabe del Mar infant school in Isdabe and the Ramón Lago primary school in Cancelada. In both cases, the town hall has ceded land to the Junta so this can be done.
Manilva is also a good example of the pressure of population growth on schools, and the council is working with the Education authorities on plans for extensions. In fact, the Junta's delegate in Malaga, Mercedes García Paine, recently laid the first stone of an extension to the San Luis de Sabinillas primary school, and announced that sites are being considered for the construction of another secondary school, which will be the second in the municipality.
E. Cabezas, J. Dueñas, J. M. Martín and A. Jiménez contributed to this article.