Joe Slovo Park residents torch MyCiTi bus after shacks demolished
Land occupation followed removal of school classrooms
It has been two weeks since the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) removed prefabricated classrooms from an unregistered school – Khozi Primary – in Joe Slovo Park, Milnerton.
Since then, people took the opportunity to erect shacks on the vacant land which belongs to the City of Cape Town.
On Sunday afternoon, a group of protesters torched a MyCiTi bus after the City’s Anti-Land Invasion Unit demolished about 20 shacks.
The City has condemned the attack in a statement, saying that “the bus driver thankfully escaped unharmed” and that attacks on the City’s public transport system limited its financial resources. “Destroying what has already been achieved deprives the communities who are dependent on public transport. The MyCiTi buses operating along Route 261 are being deviated until further notice,” the City said.
Meanwhile, Marconi Beam Primary, the only primary school in Joe Slovo Park, has been dealing with overcrowded classes – with 47 learners per classroom, according to school principal Bukelwa Plaatjies.
“We have taken in most of the children who were at that school [Khozi] as the Department’s plan B. I understand the parents’ frustrations and their reasons for wanting another school. Every year, my school is overcrowded and there are kids who remain on the waiting list until the following year,” said Plaatjies.
On 7 June, dozens of parents demonstrated outside Khozi Primary when the education department, with the help of private security, removed several prefabricated classrooms.
That same evening, Plaatjies’ office was torched. The blaze gutted her office and destroyed important information about learners.
In May GroundUp reported that the school, which accommodated nearly 400 learners, was opened by the community after children were turned away from Marconi Beam. Parents wanted the school registered, and for the WCED to provide essentials such as chairs, desks, and crayons. But the Department said its lease on the land had ended and the mobile classrooms were needed at other schools.
Thabisa Dyantyi lives in a one-room shack with her five-year-old daughter, a road away from Marconi Primary. Her daughter used to go to Khozi, but has now been at home for the past two weeks.
“There is no space for Grade R at Marconi, and I don’t have money to send her to a school in Dunoon. I can’t send her back to creche so she’ll have to stay at home for the rest of the year if the [WCED] doesn’t find her a space,” she said.
Another parent, Noxolo Mayeki, said her seven-year-old Liyema, is also not in school. “Since Khozi, my child had a place to go to and learn during the day. Now, he just plays outside,” she said.
Mayeki said Marconi had taken in some of the learners, but she was not prepared to send Liyema to an overcrowded school. “I won’t endorse children going to that school because it’s already so full. How can they learn like that?” she asked.
Plaatjies said the education department had given three mobile classrooms to accommodate Khozi’s learners at Marconi Beam and Tygerhof Primary [also in Milnerton], but some parents were opposed to this. “Some parents waited until the day the classrooms were removed to bring their children to Marconi. A week ago, we accommodated almost all of those learners. At least now the learners are settling in and we are working out ways to make this work,” she said.
Education department responds
WCED spokesman Paddy Attwell acknowledged that Marconi “was under pressure.” Attwell said that their district offices had arranged for the Khozi learners to be placed at Marconi Beam, Tygerhof, Silverleaf and Du Noon primary schools.
“Unfortunately, certain parents have ignored guidelines that officials provided on where to place learners. Some parents have ignored requests to move children into mobile classrooms at Marconi Beam,” he said.
Attwell said that at the request of Minister Debbie Schäfer, officials met with community representatives on Friday morning to investigate the need for another school in the area.
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