Parents close down Schoemansdal school with peaceful protest

Concerned parents and community members gathered at Schoemansdal Combined's gates to demand repairs to buildings and the construction of new classes.

SCHOEMANSDAL – Damaged roofs and temporary structures instead of proper classrooms drove parents at Schoemansdal Combined School to conduct a peaceful protest at the school on Monday morning.

Police monitored the gathering of parents at the school gates, but didn’t need to step in.

The school was one of several that were damaged in a severe storm in October 2016. According to one of the parents, Samson Sibuyi, the Department of Education promised to fix the damaged roofs of two blocks of classrooms, but nothing has come of it yet.

READ: Repairs under way after storm

Sibuyi said the school is now using temporary structures, but that they are a health and safety hazard.

The school has over 1 100 learners between grade R and nine, with almost 130 children in grade four. Sibuyi said that one of the structures had been divided into two, and had around 64 kids per room. As a result, classes are overcrowded and teachers cannot do their jobs properly.

READ: Overcrowding leads to school shutdown

Several representatives from the departments of education and infrastructure development have reportedly visited the school over the past year to assess the situation.

The parents were unhappy and could not understand why the process was taking so long.

“We don’t want to fight the principal and teachers, because they are also affected by this. We don’t want to be violent and burn things down. We just want our service,” Sibuyi explained.

Representatives of the Department of Education addressed parents and said they would meet with them again within seven working days with a solution to their problems. The school was also promised mobile classrooms in March. Parents, however, insisted they be installed sooner and that the repairs and construction of new classrooms be included in the new year’s budget.

“If they keep postponing the dates, don’t address the issues or don’t keep to their word we will close the school again,” Sibuyi said.

According to Jasper Zwane, spokesman of the Department of Education, the storm damage was assessed and the Department of Public Works, Roads and Transport is in the process of appointing a contractor and handing over the site. He said the department had informed the school of this.

“We request communities to desist from disrupting teaching and learning for matters that must be cleared with the department. Our doors are always open,” Zwane stated.

Last year dissatisfied parents also protested outside schools in Nkomazi.

In October, Middelplaas residents blocked Mpumelelo Primary’s gates and surrounding roads. They alleged that the school had unsafe ablution facilities after a learner fell into a pit toilet. Two learners were injured when an ANC ward councillor fired shots into the crowd. Three other local schools were also closed during the protest.

READ: Community closes school over structural safety concerns

In January 2017, Mhlaba Combined’s gates were barricaded in protest of the school’s overcrowded conditions. The Department of Education fast-tracked the completion of Langa Secondary to accommodate some of the pupils.

  AUTHOR
Retha Nel

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