9 April 2019

South Africa: Learners At Limpopo School for the Blind Stage Protest, Block Roads

Photo: Bernard Chiguvare/GroundUp
Beds for ten learners are crammed into one room at the boys’ hostel at Rivoni School.

Learners at the Rivoni School for the Blind blocked the R578 and D3831 roads leading to Elim on Monday.

The learners, who did not sleep on Sunday night because they were preparing for the protest, used tree branches, hostel beds and stones to block the roads.

Arnold Baburi, a grade 12 learner, said, "We have been complaining and protesting about this school since 2016 and nothing has changed. Our toilets are broken and showers are not working ... We cannot continue learning in such [mobile classroom] structures ... We are not going back unless the Limpopo Department of Education makes progress on our demands. This is our right."

Tall grass grows around the boys' hostel. Beds for ten learners are crammed into one room. There is no space for belongings. The ceiling is broken.

The learners say 50 of them are expected to share one shower, which is currently not working. They now use buckets to wash.

"I forced myself to be used to these conditions," said a grade 8 learner who arrived in 2018 and did not want to be named. "Floors are broken ... We are not comfortable learning in such conditions."

She said there were two girls' hostels and each had only one shower. Learners struggled to be ready in time for lessons.

Tiyani Mbedzani, a grade 12 learner, said he had no choice but to do commercial subjects. "I know what I am capable of doing. If there was a science classroom I would have gone for that."

"We are now calling the president of the country to intervene and see for himself how we are suffering," said Mbedzani.

Spokesperson for the Limpopo Department of Education Sam Makondo said a new school was to be built to accommodate blind learners throughout the province. "Designs have been finalised and the project will be going on tender by the end of this month."

But Leanne Jansen of Equal Education said the Limpopo education department had "demonstrated an inability to produce reliable data on the state of school infrastructure in the province and an inability to produce proper plans towards fixing poor school infrastructure with the urgency required".

Learners at the Rivoni School for the Blind blocked roads leading to Elim on Monday.

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