12 May 2017

South Africa: Port Elizabeth Parents Shut Down School in Anger At Education Department

With a teacher-learner ratio of over 40 to 1, they accuse government of failing to listen to their requests for three additional teachers

Parents and learners at a primary school in Port Elizabeth shut down their school on Thursday, demanding more teachers.They also said they wanted a security guard for the school property which they said was being vandalised.

Ikhwezelihle Primary School is in Motherwell. Parents said they will only open the school after the Department of Education responds to their grievances. The parents were joined by other community members.

School Governing Board (SGB) chairwoman Nomvuso Ndondo explained: "The school has a shortage of three teachers. We have been applying for an Early Childhood educator since 2015. The kids have been without an educator for far too long.The SGB fundraised for a stipend to hire and pay for an educator but the position is still not yet filled. Two teachers retired on 31 March this year but have also not been replaced despite the school informing the Department of Education about the shortage."

She continued: "The school has for many years been requesting for the services of a security guard, but the Department of Education did not supply one. The absence of a security guard has made the school a target for criminals. Water pipes have been vandalized time and again. Electricity cords have been stolen resulting in kids learning in dark classes when the weather is cloudy, making it difficult for kids to read from the board."

In the petition the parents said: "The Education District Office only makes promises without fulfilling them. When we requested for an Early Childhood educator in 2015, a coordinator kept promising us a teacher and even visited our school to verify whether we really needed an educator. He conceded that we desperately needed one. We were however surprised in 2016 when he told us that the Department of Education was no longer employing Level 4 educators but were hiring only Level 6."

The petition said that the department had 14 days to respond or the school would be closed indefinitely. According to the school principal, Vuyani Mazomba, the school has 15 staff and 636 learners. "We are desperate for these educators," he said.

Department of Education spokesman Mali Mtima said: "We have dispatched a team to the school to listen to the community with the hope of coming up with an amicable solution to the problems raised."

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