Five schools in the North West were shut down and learners were sent home on Monday, after the provincial government failed to address concerns about a new high school project.
The shutdown was proposed by the school governing body (SGB) members at Machakela-Mamodibo Secondary in Mogogelo village, in Hammanskraal, in solidarity with other SGB members from four schools in the area.
GroundUp reported that at 6.30am, parents and learners chanted outside Machakela-Mamodibo with placards saying “We want our school” and sang struggle songs. Over 200 people participated in the demonstration.
Mogogelo Primary, Dikgorwaneng Primary, Boitemogelo Primary and LM Mokoena Special schools were part of the shutdown.
Elizabeth Rehlamfu, SGB chairperson at Machakela-Mamodibo, said they were fighting against overcrowding at the school, which has dilapidated prefab classrooms and still has a bucket toilet. Some learners are forced to sit on top of bricks as there are not many chairs in the classrooms to accommodate everyone.
She said they will continue with the shutdown until they receive “concrete information from government officials” about building a new school.
Grade 10 learner Francinah Mahlangu, 16, said: “You have to make sure that you arrive early at school, otherwise you’ll be forced to fetch a brick outside and sit on it. One desk is shared by six learners. We use our laps as a desk. When it gets hot, we go outside because we can’t bear the heat.”
Last week GroundUp reported that during a community meeting, SGB members and parents had given the North West education department until Thursday February 6 to address them – but no one had pitched by Friday February 7.
Instead, the ward councillor called a private meeting at the community hall last Thursday, which officials from various government departments attended.
“They don’t take us seriously. It means they respect the councillor more,” said Rehlamfu.
Ward 11 ANC councillor Michael Chauke said: “As a councillor, there’s no way I could’ve asked stakeholders of government to meet at the school. If the SGB want them, they should call them to the school. I can’t do that.”
By 10am, a large number of residents and learners had gathered at the school and a heavy police presence was on site.
Circuit manager from Moretele education subdistrict, Jack Kedikilwe, addressed a small group of SGB members and parents.
Residents shouted: “He’s not going anywhere – he must call his bosses to address us!”
Parents told Kedikilwe they would continue with the shutdown until the provincial government came to address them. Residents blocked Kedikilwe from leaving and requested he call his colleagues to address them.
“I can confirm that we sent the petition, but no one has communicated anything. I have been involved with this issue and I was part of many meetings the community held. At my level, I can only get complaints from you and report them. I have limited power,” said Kedikilwe.
Police fired rubber bullets to disperse the crowd and Kedikilwe was escorted out of the area.
By Monday evening, department spokesperson Elias Malindi had not responded to GroundUp’s request for comment.
This article was originally published on GroundUp.