Limpopo ‘tree school' parents threatened

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Parents of children attending a “tree school” in Silvermine Village in Limpopo could face charges for denying their children state-approved education, an official said on Wednesday.

The village established its own “so-called school”, Selowe Primary, which had no buildings, sanitation or qualified teachers, said provincial education spokesman Pat Kgomo.

The Sunday Times reported that the 14 teachers and principal of the school – which has classes conducted under trees – were not paid by the department.

Kgomo said the conditions of schooling were unacceptable to the department as the teachers were mainly unqualified as educators.

The department offered the option of scholar transport to two nearby schools, but parents refused.

This was because they claimed two children were “nearly raped” while walking part of the way to the schools, which vehicles could not traverse.

“We have appealed to the municipality for more roads because the village is isolated and more infrastructure is needed,” Kgomo said.

A feasibility study found that the village had only a small number of primary school aged children, and no real prospects of growth. Nonetheless, the department decided there was a need for a school in the area.

Kgomo said the department would arrange for mobile classes in Silvermine village next year, if not a fully fledged school.

In the meantime, however, parents were legally responsible for ensuring their children's Constitutional rights to education were met.

“Otherwise, they would be set back another year.”

He said despite numerous attempts to convince the community to make use of the scholar transport to get to neighbouring schools in the interim, parents “flatly refused”.

The department sent a delegation last week to the council of the local traditional leader to ask him to speak to the community to resolve the impasse.

“We have given them our commitment... but by refusing scholar transport (until classes can be established in Silvermine) residents are holding the department to ransom,” Kgomo said.

The Sowetan reported on Wednesday that parents were unsatisfied with the department's proposals.

Phineas Mogale, whose four children attend Selowe Primary School, said: “It is better for our children to learn where they are safe than for them to be vulnerable to criminals.” – Sapa


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