Parents shut down school for second week demanding a fence

“The department does not take the safety of our children seriously”

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Photo of goats on school grounds
Goats roam at Joe Slovo Primary School in Port Elizabeth. Photo: Mkhuseli Sizani

Learners at Joe Slovo Primary School in Port Elizabeth have missed eight days of school since parents stopped all teaching on Monday last week. The protesting parents are demanding that steel palisade fencing be installed at the school.

The school, which has 1,235 learners from grade R to 7, was ransacked by thieves during the December holidays. The only school in the area, it is overcrowded and under pressure as families from the surrounding wetlands were relocated to Joe Slovo.

A teacher who did not want to be named said some classes had over 50 learners. “Ten classrooms from the block at the back have no electricity because of the vandals. Toilets are leaking and stinking because thieves are vandalising them … We have reported all the vandalism cases to the police, but all those cases don’t progress.”

Every morning, parents with learners protest in front of the school gate, blocking teachers and other learners from entering. Teachers can be seen sitting in their vehicles.

On Wednesday there were about 70 protesting parents with learners waving placards that read: “Amasela ayasiqgiba isikolo sethu” (Thieves are breaking through our school) and “Fence our school because the learners and teachers don’t feel safe”.

School Governing Body (SGB) secretary Neliswa Mayedwa said, “In 2019 alone we had five major burglaries … In December alone five gas stoves and six big pots for the school nutrition project were stolen. Stationery, text books, wheelie bins, plasma TV, five computers were stolen and two big water tanks.”

“Since 2017 we have been in and out of the Port Elizabeth Education District offices and Provincial Education Department offices asking for a fence.”

A week before the December 2019 holidays, officials met with the school and said fencing was the SGB’s responsibility, said Mayedwa.

“This year we decided to shut down the school because the future of our children is going down the drain. The Department does not take the safety of our children seriously,” she said.

Provincial Education spokesperson Loyiso Pulumani said initially the department could not honour the requests made by schools due to funding constraints. However, additional budget had been received from the Department of Basic Education in mid February.

“We have instructed Coega Development Corporation on 27 February 2020 to come up with a project plan for fencing of the school and others,” said Pulumani.

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