Community closes school over structural safety concerns

Tyres were set alight at Mpumelelo Primary's gates and on access roads leading to the school last week.

MIDDELPLAAS – Parents of Mpumelelo Primary School learners demanded that safe ablution facilities and a new school be provided for their children during protest action over the last week.

Protest action started last Thursday and is still ongoing.

Parents alleged that a learner fell into a toilet pit and had to be rescued.

The school is said have been built in 1969, and the toilets have not been upgraded since then. Parents maintain that the toilets are unhygienic and unsafe and pose a danger to their children.

READ: Overcrowding leads to school shutdown

“The toilets are very old and have sinkholes. They don’t have a foundation. They are hanging in the air. As a community we thought it would be better to close the school and prevent the danger rather than having our children die,” one of the community members told Corridor Gazette.

“There are two learners who fainted in class. So we demand that the department comes and removes those mobile classes and tell us when it will build a permanent structure,” he added.

Community members blocked access roads to Mpumelelo Primary and other key locations in protest of the school’s dilapidated condition.

Parents are also complaining that the mobile classes eat into the school’s budget because they consume a lot of electricity for air conditioning since they are hot.

Chaos erupted last Friday when the Ward 31 ANC councillor, Mr Twelve Siboza, allegedly fired three shots into the crowd of demonstrating community members who refused to listen to him and chased him away.

Two learners were injured, with one sustaining a small wound on her leg and another being taken to hospital with a bullet wound to the arm.

Community members alleged the councillor had not been provoked, and it was not the first time he turned violent.

A learner was shot in the arm when a local councillor allegedly fired a few shots into the crowd of protesters.

According to SAPS provincial spokeman, Brig Leonard Hlathi, a case of attempted murder was opened against Siboza. He was arrested and denied bail and was set to appear in the Boschfontein Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.

He was released on  R1 500 bail.

Parents had previously also blocked Camalaza Secondary School and the local clinic, but withdrew from the clinic on Monday. On Wednesday, two other primary schools, Sifundzekhaya and ‎Phakamani were also closed.

The circuit manager and other representatives of the Department of Education met with the community at the school on Tuesday.

READ: Teachers must set the highest moral example

“They are still talking about 2021. We’ve met with the HOD of education and his team. They said they only have a budget for toilets. As part of their 2020 plan, they are scheduled to do the layout of the school in 2018 and 2019 and the school will then be completed in 2019 and 2020. We did not accept that because our school is in a critical state. We have asked for the MEC or his representative to come listen to us,” said Mr Thulani Mashela, the chairman of the school governing board.

Parents say the school will remain closed and learning and teaching will not take place until the MEC for education comes to visit them.

Nokwazi Thobela

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