10 February 2016
A group of Dunoon parents picketed outside Silver Leaf Primary School this week demanding that the school accept their grade R children who were excluded when the school closed down two grade R classes three weeks ago.
Parents said children in higher grades had also been excluded. They said there were spare classrooms which were not being used.
The site of the school was leased last year by the provincial department of education to accommodate children from Sophakama Primary School while a new school was being built on the Sophakama site.
When the Sophakama school was completed, students who could not find places in either Sophakama or the other primary school in the area moved into the temporary classrooms where they were taught by voluntary teachers and parents. The classes were divided from grade one to grade seven.
The school is now being run by the department, and an interim school governing body, principal and teachers were appointed in October 2015. But some parents claim that their children have been excluded.
Nomaphelo Madikane said her six-year-old son had been excluded though last year he was in the school. She said parents had asked the principal to allow their children to attend the school while they looked for other schools. But this had been refused.
“We saw on the school list that there are some children who are at Philadelphia school and they were accepted at Silver Leaf school, while our children were excluded,” she said.
She said parents had offered to buy chairs for the empty classrooms and to pay school fees, and there were volunteers willing to teach the children.
The principal, Fikile Mbalula, said the school had been formally established late last year and only two of the four grade R classes had been approved by the Department of Education, with only 30 pupils per class.
Mbalula said the school was already short of teachers and could not offer four grade R classes. He said he sympathised with the parents’ plight, but there was nothing he could do.
Jessica Shelver, spokesperson for the department of education, said since Grade R was not compulsory, the department was not obliged to accommodate the children.
She said the department had to limit the number of Grade R classes to two. The number of Grade R classes in any year affected the number of classes necessary in later grades, she said.
Shelver said empty classrooms could not be used because the space would be needed in future years.
She said the department “follows due process” when appointing teachers. Only parents of children at the school, and employees of the department or the school governing body, were allowed on the premises, she said. Anyone else would be asked to leave.
“We will come down hard on anyone who wishes to disrupt teaching and learning in our schools,” said Shelver.
She said parents looking for a school for their children should contact the District Office.