Parents of some Eldorado Park students attending a further education and training (FET) college are worried that their children could end up in the hands of drug lords.
Scores of students have not attended lectures for three weeks because of unpaid transport and accommodation fees by the Gauteng provincial government.
This was despite Premier Nomvula Mokonyane’s undertaking last week to assist the students. She said in a media statement that the government would, through the Gauteng City Region Academy, contribute R7 500 for each student towards a daily meal and transport.
The students were in May placed in the college as part of the government’s anti-drug drive announced by Mokonyane and President Jacob Zuma.
Zuma, accompanied by Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini and Hawks head Anwa Dramat visited the troubled township last year.
This was after parents, led by Dereleen James - who started the anti-drug movement in the township - wrote to Zuma, pleading for help to root out the drug havens in the area, which are known as lolly lounges.
The letter read in part: “Children as young as eight are drug addicts… boys and girls. We no longer get together to boast about the achievements of our children but rather to share our lives of living hell and despair.”
On Monday, a group of parents converged at a local taxi rank to raise their concerns at what they said was the government’s floundering anti-drug campaign.
They accused the government of reneging on its promise to pay accommodation fees and student transport fares.
The students had, at the initiative of the Gauteng government, left their homes at the beginning of the year to study at Westcol College in Krugersdorp and in Randfontein.
They were accommodated in four separated residences in Carletonville, Randfontein, Magaliesburg and Krugersdorp.
The parents said the problem started three weeks ago when the buses failed to arrive.
Things worsened last Wednesday when the students were told to vacate their residences. It was then that they were told that both their accommodation fees and transportation fares were not paid. Students told of their frustration at missing lessons.
“It’s unsafe for me to walk in the dark at 5am to the bus stop. I have no one to walk with me,” said Jody Chinian, who is studying management.
“It was better while I was living in res (residence) because I had enough time to study.
“Now I spend more time on the road travelling from home to school. It’s about four or five hours of travelling a day,” he said.
Another student, Tevin Paulson, said he feared that the eviction would affect his studies.
“We left our houses because we wanted to stay away from the distractions in the area. All we want is for these issues to be solved and to go back to school,” he said.
One of the concerned parents, Noleen de Beer, said they were worried that the students could end up being lured by drug lords. “It’s unsafe to have girls walking all by themselves in the dark. We are concerned that this is really unfair on the children. We want the government to do something about this situation,” she said.
Mokonyane denied that the provincial government had promised to pay the boarding fees in full.
Part of the problem, she said, was that a local resident had recruited students and placed them at the campuses using a fake letter with the Department of Higher Education logo.
She added that the man had since been arrested after a case of fraud was opened against him.