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Cape Town -
About 80 Khayelitsha children whose parents claim they have been unable to find places for them at local schools have started attending classes in a one-roomed church, where they are being taught by volunteers.
On Monday, Grade 1 to 4 pupils at the makeshift school in Zwelitsha were reading and writing inside the room, some seated next to a pulpit.
Outside, Grade R pupils were singing songs with a teacher while Grade 5, 6 and 7 pupils sat on benches in the shade, writing in their books.
Grade 4 teacher Pamela Kaba said the school’s 12 voluntary teachers all had the necessary qualifications. The school opened on Friday.
The situation in Zwelitsha has been in the spotlight for almost two weeks.
At a press conference last week, Education MEC Donald Grant said that on the first day of school the Western Cape Education Department was provided with a list of 400 children needing placement.
But the department found that most of the children were already enrolled in schools and only 138 actually needed places.
Grant said that when officials went to the area in the first week of the school year, they were locked inside a school building by residents demanding that a mobile school be built.
Grant said officials and the Khayelitsha Development Forum had met 50 principals in Khayelitsha and established that 686 places were available in primary schools and 120 in secondary schools.
A registration point was set up at the forum’s offices on Thursday.
On Monday, Mayor Sizani, who has two children attending the church school, said all the nearby schools were full.
“To get there to the registration point is too far and I don’t have money for a taxi.”
Sizani said that even if the department agreed to transport the children to existing schools, he felt that they were still too young for this.
Another parent, Zanele Ntunzi, who brought her son to school, said she did not know the department had set up a registration point.
“I’m happy about this school because it’s not far from my home.”
Bronagh Casey, spokeswoman for Grant, said the department had received reports of the “so-called” school.
“It is unfortunate that the Zwelitsha community has not heeded our call to register at one of our schools. The department has already matched the 138 learners on the list given to us by the community with schools in Khayelitsha in their relevant grades. We will continue to try and engage with these parents through different communication channels,” she said.
A sign would be placed at the school on Tuesday. It would say that the school was unregistered, and any child attending classes there was not officially at school. There would also be a telephone number which parents could call if they wanted to register their child.
“The department has fulfilled its obligation to ensure that there are places for these learners. The parents must fulfil their duties by ensuring that they enrol their children at a school,” Casey said. “Parents are reminded that failing to enrol their child is in clear violation of the law.”