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Philippi High students demand promised new school

About 150 learners march to the Metro South office of the education department

Photo of school students marching
Students from Philippi High marched to the offices of the Department of Education in Mitchells Plain demanding a new school be built. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks
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On Monday, about 150 students from Philippi High School marched to the Metro South Education District Office demanding that a new school they say was promised to them be built.

At the start of the protest, students blocked traffic on New Eisleben Road with rocks and debris. Police fired at least one stun grenade to disperse students. Police made several attempts to stop the march, claiming it was illegal, but the high school students proceeded.

At the gates of the education department, about 60 students crammed the entrance preventing vehicles from entering.

“We are tired of the department’s promises,” said a student over a megaphone. “If there is no plan for our school, the school will be shut down.”

Students want the department to inform them about progress with the new school it had promised. A year ago, police fired stun grenades at students protesting over the lack of infrastructure.

Police attempted to negotiate by letting a handful of students into the department building, but the students wanted the department to address all of them.

After an hour, from behind the gates, Director of Metro South Education District Glen Van Harte, addressed the students. “If the gathering is about a new school, I don’t know why you are here,” he said.

Van Harte told students a new school would be built.

Athulle Baba, who matriculated at Philippi High and is now at university, said classes at the school were taught in shipping containers which were hot in summer and cold in winter.

Mzimabi Mathenga, a Grade 12 student, said the Department had promised to build a school in two years, but there was no sign of it.

“We need the truth about the [status of the new] school. It’s our education,” said Mathenga.

Students said they would continue protesting until they received clarity on the new school.

Philippi High School principal Mandisa Cenga said the new school was in progress and he had kept students and teachers informed. He said a meeting with the architects scheduled for Monday had to be postponed because of the students’ protests.

A spokesperson for the Western Cape Education Department said the school was “in the design phase”.

“Based on the current budget allocation, the school should go into construction in the 2017/18 financial year.”

This article was changed to include comment from the Philippi High School principal and the Western Cape Education Department.

Letters

Dear Editor

It's been too long now. Enough waiting. We were told that a place was found to build a new school - what are they waiting for?

Dear Editor

In 2014, 2015, when I was a teacher at COSAT Khayelitsha, I realised and saw for myself the utter inequality and divisions and warped focus that the WCED had toward schools in the greater Khayelithsha.

The chosen lucky schools, like the so-called Free School, COSAT where I was a teacher, received all the funding, equipment, best of teachers, and privileges, for a selected group of students, who ironically, many came from Philippi and lived in terrible conditions.

Philippi High students have been begging and suffering for too long to get the same attention. The students were and are still fed-up with the government's atrocious treatment of them, and the class divisions that the government creates among poor students, themselves who all came from poverty stricken communities.

I also was disgusted by the way in which the lucky, few, privileged schools, Principals, students were put on a pedestal and used to show the media, the world and sponsors, especially private, that this was a general situation and that everything was okay- but not in reality. The majority of schools, especially Philippi High was abandoned, the students shot at, abused by the government and rejected.

In 2015, SOS and my students hosted a benefit gig to raise funds for the Philippi High Students, and it was astonishing that my students (the privileged ones) could not believe that their fellow students in Philippi High were treated this way. That is how clustered they were in these select privileged schools from the reality of their own lives and Khayelitsha.

For this same reason, being outspoken, and discovering a lot of corruption in the education department and the unequal manner in which Principals and teachers were treated by the WCED, I was forced to resign.

The student revolution, like 1976, has to start in the schools, not the universities...Philippi High students are some of the proudest, most active, hard-working but struggling students I have ever seen in my 20 years as a teacher and activist.

I really hope the struggle continues and solidarity to Philippi students!!

Dear Editor

I am very disappointed in the WCED. Philippi High School (PHS) was established in 2007 and it still does not have a school building after 10 years. What is the WCED still waiting for? Maybe it's time WCED officials come to the school and sit in those container classes for two hours in summer so they can experience how hot those containers get. We used to be taken out of classes when it was too hot. How can we expect a high passing rate from students who study in such conditions? How will they focus?

I support the learners for protesting. I matriculated from PHS in 2008 and know from experience how it feels to be in those containers. I expected the school to be built by now.

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