| KING WILLIAM'S TOWN

Eastern Cape education minister must go, demand protesters

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Hundreds march in King William’s Town for better schools

Photo of police confronting protesters
Police push Equal Education protesters away from the entrance to the Eastern Cape Department of Education offices. Photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik
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Not enough teachers, poor infrastructure and lack of water: these are just some of the problems that need to be fixed by the Eastern Cape Department of Education according to hundreds of learners who marched on Tuesday in King William’s Town.

On the first day of the new term the protesters marched to the offices of the offices of MEC of Education Mandla Makhuphula and the Department of Education. The march was led by Equal Education and supported by South African Students Congress and parents.

Marchers arrived at the department’s offices just before lunch time. Upon arrival, learners and parents blocked the entrance preventing officials from going out. The students sat down and took out their books. Police intervened and pushed learners out the way.

Photo of students sitting on the ground
A student reads his life sciences book. Photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

A memorandum by Equal Education said the march was part of the growing movement of school community members across the Eastern Cape who had grown increasingly outraged by the failure of the department to provide children with basic education.

The memo said the education crisis includes, but is not limited to crumbling school infrastructure, textbook shortages and delays, missing furniture, and vacant teacher and principal posts.

Equal Education is calling for MEC Makupula, Superintendent-General Netshilaphala and national Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga to be held to account for the failure to implement minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure.

“Even in 2016, we continue to find schools without roofs, walls that have collapsed and killed learners, classes administered under trees, and learner-teacher ratios of eighty to one,” wrote Equal Education.

“We are in the final year of the first time frame for implementation of the norms and standards for school infrastructure. The regulations state that by 29 November 2016 there must be no schools without water, electricity or sanitation, and that all schools must be built from appropriate structures. The Eastern Cape Department has openly acknowledged that it will not meet this deadline and will therefore stand in direct violation of the law.”

Some parents in the march demanded that Makhuphula resign. They also demanded answers on the R530 million which the department failed to spend last year.

Parent Zoleka Tunyiswa from Imiqhayi Senior Secondary School in Mount Coke said for many years they been begging the department to build proper schools but their cries have fallen on deaf ears. She said the department once promised to build them a better school but never came back.

“It’s clear the department does not care about our kids’ education. The roof at Imiqhayi is falling. Windows are broken. Some of the classes have broken doors. The place does not look like it’s a school. Everything is failing,” said Tunyiswa.

Another parent Ntombizandile Mnothimngophe from Vukile Tshwete high school in Qoboqobo said their children are victims of rape. “The school is in bushes, learners are robbed almost every day and the department does not seem to care about that,” she said.

Photo of protesters with placard saying Mandla must resign
Protesters called for the MEC of Education to resign. Photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

Abongile Mxuma, a grade 11 learner from Vukile Tshwele, agreed, and told of how a learner was recently robbed inside the school premises.

“I want this to be clear: there’s no school at Vukile Tshwete. We are using what was once a military base. When it rains, water comes inside the classes. Windows are broken. We only have one tap and this week we didn’t have water. We were forced to bring bottles of water from home. We are also facing a challenge of lack of teachers. Every month each learner pays R200 for the life science teacher. Our parents begged the department to hire another teacher. Till this day we are still waiting,” said Mxuma.

Thandokazi Zicima, also from Vukile Tshwete, said sometimes she gets scared when she goes to school because of snakes. “We are studying under bad conditions. Imagine you are writing and there’s a snake looking at you. How are you going to concentrate? Even teachers are scared of the snakes. I wish government can do something about our school.”

Sinothando Putuma, a grade eight learner from B Kat Senior Secondary School in Zinyoka area King William’s Town, told GroundUp that every day she wakes up at 5am in order to get to school on time.

She said she walks about 45 minutes every day from home to school then another 45 minutes from school to home. She says the school was built by parents years ago. The 13 year-old said when her school was built, she was not even born. “If the school was built more than 13 years ago, you can imagine how the school looks like these days,” she said.

A grade ten learner, Zenande Kampeni from Qonce High, told GroundUp that even though their school is not far from the department of education offices no officials visit their school. Just like the other schools, Kampani said lack of toilets and teachers are major major problem.

“I really do not know how the department is expecting us to have a high pass rate while we do not have resources. We are short with four teachers and I’m sure the department is aware of that,” he said.

Lungelwa Gcina, chairperson of the Amandlambe clan, said that last year there was a march with Equal Education to the department’s offices and Makhuphula was not there. She said it is time Makhuphula stepped down and government put the right person in the job. “Makhuphula does not care about education. Not a single day does he call a meeting but he’s always quick when it comes to closing schools, even though he did not build them,” she said.

After two hours the department’s Director of Community Liaison, Mbulelo Sanqu, accepted the memorandum and promised to respond to Equal Education by 17 April.

Photo of march
Photo Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

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