The parents of schoolgirls who served as waitresses at the State of the Province Address claimed that their children were not treated well. Photo: Danie van der Lith

Kimberley - The parents of city schoolgirls who served as waitresses at last Friday’s State of the Province Address have expressed their disgust at the way in which their children were treated by dignitaries and guests at the event.

A parent of a Grade 11 learner said that a group of Grade 11 and 12 learners from Kimberley Girls’ High School had offered their services to serve as waitresses at the event.

“The senior girls had served as waitresses at previous luncheons, held after the official opening of the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature. However, in the past, these were held at private restaurants and not at the Mitta Seperepere Convention Centre.”

She said the girls were expected to report for duty at 7.30am and worked until 3pm.

“During this time, they were not once offered something to eat or drink.”

The mother also pointed out that some of the guests were very rude and many of the men made advances to the girls.

“They made comments like they wanted love bites with their food and other inappropriate suggestions.”

She added that the girls were told that they were allowed to offer each guest one drink and one bottle of water.

“When the guests asked for more and they were unable to comply, some of the guests threw empty cans at them. They were also sworn at and bullied when they were unable to give the guests second helpings of food.

“They were told they would receive their cellphones and other personal belongings after the last pudding was served.

“However, when they went to fetch their cellphones they were told they first needed to clear the tables. They were then told to wash the dishes and they refused.”

She said several parents had forwarded their concerns to the principal of the school, Helen Hugo, who had taken the matter up with the management of the convention centre.

Hugo on Tuesday confirmed that she became aware of the complaints by the girls after being contacted by parents.

“I have taken up the issues with management of the Mittah Seperepere Convention Centre. They were very co-operative when I explained the situation. They explained that food and water were available for learners but added that it was a frantically busy day.

“We must remember that these were schoolchildren who are not used to the long hours associated with the service industry, but the convention centre is not to blame for that,” Hugo said.

She did add that the learners received “a substantial amount” for the services they rendered and that this money would be put towards the school’s matric farewell fund.

The convention centre manager, Tsholo Wesi, on Tuesday denied the allegations by the girls, saying that they were provided with breakfast, bottled water and a lunch, which was served after the event was over.

She added that the space was provided where the girls could safely store their backpacks, cellphones, adding that it would be utterly unprofessional for a waitress to talk on a cellphone while serving guests, which included the Premier. She denied that they were asked to wash dishes, saying many cleaning staff were employed to perform this task.

Wesi also said that while some girls complained about the way they were treated by guests, she explained to them not to take it personally. More than 140 girls served at the luncheon, where roughly 2 000 guests were catered for.

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