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Angry learners disrupt schooling in Mfuleni

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Fairdale High School learners want to move to their new school urgently

Photo of people round a table
Community leaders and learners met at Nalikamva Primary School after the protests yesterday to discuss the situation. Photo: Vincent Lali
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Angry learners from Fairdale High School disrupted learning in other high schools in Mfuleni on Tuesday, demanding that the Western Cape Education Department move them to a nearby school.

The Fairdale High learners are sharing Nalikamva Primary School premises with primary school learners. They attend classes from midday after the primary school learners have left. Manelisi Magadla, a cleaner at Mfuleni High School, said the Fairdale learners had marched along with parents on Tuesday. The learners had forced a gate open and told Mfuleni High learners to leave their classrooms and join them, he said.

Magadla said the school principal had cautioned learners against participating in the protest at the assembly, but some learners had ignored him and joined the demonstration.

Qhama Mlonyeni, chair of the Learner Representative Council (LRC) at Fairdale High School, said the learners wanted to move into a new, prefab school in nearby Silversands and attend classes in the mornings. Moving into the new school would enable learners to spend more time in the classrooms and catch up with their school work. “We will engage in sport, enter school competitions and have school choirs,” she said.

LRC member Ntombenkosi Siyothula said: “Because we attend classes for a few hours, we are behind with our school work.” Siyothula said Fairdale High School learners are supposed to be busy with fourth term work, but they are still battling with third term one.

Mfuleni SANCO leader Zingisile Ndamase said the department had promised that the school would be ready by October.

“Student leaders have made a decision to shut down schools until the department opens their new school in Silversands. We as community leaders and parents fully support them,” said Ndamase.

Addressing the learners, Ndamase said: “Now that the protest has made an impact, we want you to go back to your classrooms.”

Spokesperson for the Western Cape Education Department, Bronagh Hammond said “disruption of schooling is totally unacceptable”. She said the new Fairdale High School was ready, but residents of Silversands were preventing Mfuleni learners using it. The department had asked councillors to convince Silversands residents to allow the learners to move into the school, she said.

But Pakamisa Keswa, speaking on behalf of Silversands residents, took issue with Hammond blaming his neighbourhood’s residents. “One of the biggest concerns about the high school is that learners of Silver Sands, Hindle Park Bardale Village, Highgate, Sunbird Park, Camelot, Wembly Park(areas in the vicinity that do not have their own high schools) are not going to be accommodated at this new school. Parents are currently forced to send their children to schools as far as Parow, Bellville, Soneike and so on,” he wrote. (See Keswa’s full letter below this article.)

Western Cape Police spokesperson Siyabulela Malo said the police had opened a case of public violence against the learners. “It has been reported that these learners were throwing stones at the passing vehicles and also at a police vehicle,” he said.

Updated on 16 October at 19:50 with comment by Pakamisa Keswa.

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Write a letter in response to this article

Letters

Dear Editor

We as the community of Silver Sands would like to be placed on record as raising the following concerns with regards to Fairdale High school.

- The WCED is aware of the concerns the community raised with the forced establishing of these prefabs in the area & the reasons why residents object to the occupation.
- One of the biggest concerns about the high school is that learners of Silver Sands, Hindle Park Bardale Village, Highgate, Sunbird Park, Camelot, Wembly Park(areas in the vicinity that do not have their own high schools) are not going to be accommodated at this new school. Parents are currently forced to send their children to schools as far as Parow, Bellville, Soneike and so on.
- The WCED has violated the conditions under which alleged ‘Silver Sands leadership’ agreed to when they informed the community of the WCED’s own decision to place the prefabs in Silver Sands. They promised that the school would accommodate learners from the above areas & that there would be a inclusive recruitment process for all employment purposes.

Silver Sands residents are also very concerned about the manner in which the entire process of the building of the school took place. We would like to see a probe into the tender processes of how the work at the site was conducted.

A meeting with WCED director David Miller, Mfuleni, Silver Sands community leadership & other stake holders was held in Parow at the WCED North offices on the 15 October 2019.

At this meeting Mr Miller made it categorically clear that this school will NOT accommodate any learners from Silver Sands or other areas but that it would only house learners from the platooning Fairdale High. He also said that the school would be moving with its own teachers, staff & SGB.

This is despite talks of Silver Sands inclusion at the new high school. The chair of the Eduforum in the ward can be heard confirming that Silver Sands would be included at the school in a interview in the Cape Times titled ‘ Look: Racial tensions flare at new high school in Silver Sands’ on the 15 October 2019 by Odwa Mkentane.

When questioned about why the school was not built in Mfuleni Erf 1 as initially promised to Mfuleni residents, as this would address any transport & safety issues that were raised in the meeting. The intolerant Director said he did not make the decision which lead to this whole dispute in the first place.

We as the Silver Sands community also requested any documentation that supposed we were party to the school being built in Silver Sands however the director who said we can ‘call him arrogant’ simply ignored our requests. Which raises questions!

Residents of Silver Sands feel frustrated because they have been promised their own high school in the area, there is no clinic in the area nor is there any community centre or library in the area. Elderly persons are having to go to Mfuleni’s clinic at the break of dawn which is a huge security problem as they get mugged on their way there.