Cape Town - A mob of angry parents burnt tyres on Baden Powell Drive in Cape Town on Monday morning in protest against overcrowding in schools.
The road was closed near the Swartklip Road intersection as barriers of stacked tyres burned.
By mid-morning, the road was still closed.
The protest by parents, from Zwelitsha and Nkanini in Khayelitsha, comes after weeks of tension between the community and the Department of Education over overcrowding at schools in the area.
Parents said the pupil-to-teacher ratio was up to 60 to one in some classrooms. Two weeks ago, parents marched on the provincial legislature to hand over a memorandum.
Previously, residents had locked officials in a school building.
They are demanding that the department set up temporary schools in mobile units to accommodate up to 490 pupils they say don’t have places in any school.
“We gave (Education MEC) Donald Grant seven days to respond, but up until now he has not,” said Nolizwi
Ngcana, the parent of a Grade 5 boy. “We will burn tyres every morning, for the whole month if needs be, until he comes in person and addresses our concerns.”
Another parent, ANC councillor Andile Lili, said the overcrowding issue was not new.
“Last year they told us to send our kids to schools nearby in the area, but when we got there they told us ‘sorry. we are full as well’.
“We are proud of our children and as parents we want to give them every opportunity to succeed. Yet, the department is setting our kids up for failure. A teacher needs to know each learner personally, they need to attend to their needs. This is not possible in a class of 56 pupils.”
Lili said gangsterism was a big concern in Nkanini, as children were more likely to stay away from school in overcrowded conditions.
Paddy Atwell, spokesman for the Western Cape Education Department, said the protest action was unacceptable and unnecessary.
“The department can place every learner. There are more than 1 000 places available in Khayelitsha schools. There is absolutely no reason why the learners should not be in school.” The department said there were 138 pupils who were yet to be enrolled.
“The department has made every effort to make it as easy as possible for parents to enrol their children and will continue to do so,” he added.
Pamela Kaba, a volunteer teacher, said the department had said this before but when parents went to schools in Site B, on recommendation from the department, they were turned away.
Of the unplaced pupils, more than 100 use a vacant one-room building in Zwelitsha as a temporary school.
“These conditions are extremely difficult, the kids don’t have desks and we don’t have basics such as blackboards,” said Mayor Sizani, an assisting parent.
Bronagh Casey, spokeswoman for Grant, said it was an illegal school and children attending it were not officially at school.