Five of them had been dismissed from class earlier that morning from Goza Primary School. Although a school worker said they had left because of the nearby service delivery protest in Eldorado Park, many children said it was not uncommon for them to be out of school before 11am.
A lack of basic services, especially running water, at the three-year-old school has caused problems for pupils, who often don’t have access to drinking water and flushing toilets.
The school has been relying on JoJo tanks that can hold up to 20000 litres of water, the daily amount the school needs to operate. However, the service provider often brings only 8000 litres, if any at all, said DA MPL Khume Ramulifho.
Ramulifho, the party’s education spokesperson, conducted a follow-up visit on Friday after he had noted the lack of basic services during an inspection late last year.
On his visits, he noticed overcrowding, citing a classroom that had 58 children, as well as a lack of electricity. However, he said his current priority was improving sanitation and hygiene.
“We can’t afford to risk the children, who are supposed to have a better future, by exposing them to unhygienic conditions, because they will get sick,” Ramulifho told The Star.
“These are poor families who cannot afford to have medical aid for their kids.”
Learners were dismissed early because of the dismal teaching conditions, he added.
The situation at Goza is indicative of a larger trend in Gauteng, where 81 schools have an unreliable water supply and 105 have an unreliable electricity supply, according to the June 2016 National Education Infrastructure Management System Standards Report.
“We want (Gauteng Education MEC) Panyaza Lesufi to prioritise basics. He’s talking about all these luxury things when basic services are not being met,” Ramulifho said.
A spokesperson for Lesufi, Steve Mabona, apologised for the lack of infrastructure.
“This is to confirm that we did have challenges of water supply at Goza Primary School. However, we wish to inform that the service provider has resumed the supply water, and teaching and learning will resume.
"It is paramount to inform that it is the MEC’s wish to eradicate all mobile schools in the near future. The only challenge is the budget. We are hopeful that such schools will be eliminated.”
Risenga Joseph Mchipisa, Goza’s school governing body chairperson, directed the blame at infrastructure issues.
Goza is an assemblage of mobile containers - a makeshift solution for overflow pupils at Somelulwazi Primary School, but now long term. This prevents Goza from tapping into the water supply pipe that services Somelulwazi, even though both schools sit on the same piece of land, Mchipisa said.
An 11-year-old Grade 5 pupil who identified himself as Nhluvuko said they often resorted to urinating behind the containers because the toilets did not flush.
“They pee everywhere, and they don’t have any privacy - male or female,” said one parent, who asked not to be named. “They’re going to help themselves anywhere.”
In response to these conditions, a march from the school to the district was planned, said Mchipisa, whose daughter goes to Goza.
Initially scheduled for today, it was postponed in light of the nearby protests.
Ramulifho said he facilitated a meeting between Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba and Lesufi after his previous inspection, but there needed to be results.
“The discussion has taken place, but now we need to see action,” he said. “How are we going to take this forward?”