Parents step in to clean Austerville School Primary
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Durban- Classes were expected to resume at Austerville Primary School in Wentworth after protests led to disruptions to teaching and lessons.
Parents protested on Friday and Monday in a bid to get urgent attention for “health hazard” conditions and management problems at the school.
They staged a lock-out, preventing pupils from entering the school.
The Department of Education was expected to meet concerned residents and parents today to address the matter.
On Monday, parents spoke of the problems, but asked not to be named for fear that their children would be targeted by teachers. Their main gripes included the “health hazard” school toilets and a shortage of teachers.
“Our children are getting vaginal infections because they can’t use those toilets. My child developed a rash on her arms, another two children had swollen hands because they are being made to clean the toilets. We don’t send our children to school to clean toilets and be exposed to all this sickness,” said a parent.
Another said her son was sick for two weeks after being made to clean the toilets.
A third parent raised concern over the shortage of teachers: “I have children in Grade R and Grade 2. My son, in Grade 2, has been without a teacher for two months now. This is unacceptable.”
Another parent was worried about exams: “Our children will be writing exams soon. I’ve paid school fees, but there are no teachers. How are the kids supposed to be ready for exams? I’ve had to take a day off work to come and sort this out.”
Zanie van Wyk, who lived across the road from the school and had been advocating for help on Facebook, said last week she saw children taking the school’s rubbish bins out for collection.
“I don’t have children in this school, but if these were my children I wouldn’t want this happening to them. We don’t want children going to school and being exposed to health hazards.”
Austerville Primary has experienced numerous management issues since its previous principal retired.
In 2016, a new principal was appointed, but rejected by parents who believed he was not qualified. The department accused the parents of being racist. The parents have maintained that it is not a race-based objection.
They said the new principal was given the job over applicants who were more qualified and more experienced.
Since then, communication between the two parties has broken down. The new principal remains employed, but reports to the department’s offices for work purposes and also substitutes as a teacher or principal at other schools. He reportedly received threats and cannot go back to Austerville Primary.
Meanwhile, the school grapples with teacher shortages and no support staff - such as cleaners and groundsmen - because those workers had to be let go as the school governing body (SGB) apparently had no money to pay them.
Added to this are allegations that the current acting principal cannot access money meant for the running of the school because requisition books and related official documentation are being held at the homes of former SGB members.
When contacted, the school’s acting principal said she was not allowed to talk to the media and referred the Daily News to the department for comment.
The SGB chairperson, who would not be named, would not comment on the matter of the unpaid SGB staff - referring to teachers and cleaners - or issues about the new principal.
On Monday night, department of education spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said their circuit inspector had gone to the school.
“The community resolved that they would clean the school immediately, just so that there can be a resumption of teaching,” said Mahlambi