Rural school children still left in the pits as thousands return to school
Durban - THE degrading state of toilets, taps running dry, lack of scholar transport, dilapidated classrooms, and lack of food for pupils in rural areas overshadowed the “state of readiness” announced by the Department of Basic Education on Sunday.
This was according to teacher unions in the province, who conducted oversight visits, as thousands of pupils returned to school on Monday.
“We visited four schools in the deep rural parts of KwaZulu-Natal because we know these are the schools really suffering and what we saw was beyond shocking. We saw pit toilets that pupils fall into, so they relieve themselves outside instead. There’s no water so they can’t cook, there were no mobile classrooms as promised, some children could not get to school because there was no transport and some pupils were wearing torn masks that they were evidently given last year,” said National Teachers Union (Natu) general secretary Cynthia Barnes.
SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) provincial secretary Nomarashiya Caluza said although they found teachers had done their part since returning to work at the beginning of February, they also found several issues with personal protective equipment (PPE) at the schools they visited.
“PPE have been delivered but we found that, in some areas, principals complain that they are still told to come and collect them at district offices and some received the wrong sizes. Another big issue is the shortage of teachers – teachers who have passed away, resigned and retired have not been replaced. The department needs to fill these vacancies as soon as possible and we have already asked for a meeting to raise these issues,” said Caluza.
National Professional Teachers' Organisation of South Africa’s (Naptosa) executive director Basil Manuel said while he could not confirm anything, as he had not received a report, he said he was not surprised there were issues.
“The department has kept saying that things will arrive on time but we know for a fact that they have not,” he said.
Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu said although there was a slow start to the year, the department was aware of certain issues but “no further disruptions would be allowed”.
“The delivery of PPE for pupils continued until late on Sunday, so we are confident today that there is no pupil in KZN who cannot access schooling because of a lack of PPE. Water is still one area that is giving us a challenge because it is completely outside our control, as we also rely on the municipalities. We are also aware of some community protests which disrupted the resumption of schooling, but we cannot allow further disruption,” said Mshengu.
Mshengu was speaking at the official opening of the R250 million Anton Lembede Maths Science and Technology (MST) School in La Mercy. The school has one specialist classroom, a library, three computer laboratories and three science laboratories.
According to KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala, the “state-of-the-art” school has 20 classrooms with a carrying capacity of 600 pupils and would “focus on maths, science and innovation to train pupils in these specialist fields, and fields to equip them for the Fourth Industrial Revolution”.