Cape Town - 120617 - A new temporary mobile school is being built in Grabouw to help alleviate the overcrowding at the Umyezo Wama Apile Combined School. Reporter: Ilse Fredericks Photographer: David Ritchie

The local civic organisation in Grabouw says recent protests over school overcrowding in the area, which eventually turned violent, have paid off.

Chairman John Michels said the action proved fruitful, that if there hadn’t been protests, the overcrowded conditions would still exist.

However, the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) has denied that the positive outcome was the result of the protest, saying it had been working towards a solution long before any action was taken by the residents.

Michels was speaking to the media on Sunday, about three months after the protests.

Now a temporary school, consisting of mobile classrooms, for Umyezo Wama Apile Combined School is nearing completion and some pupils are expected to move in at the start of the new school term. Several classrooms have been built, and Michels said residents were happy with the progress that has been made.

During the sometimes violent protests, which started early in March, two of the school’s classrooms were burnt down and other parts of the school vandalised.

On March 14, the education department announced the school would be temporarily closed. Education MEC Donald Grant said the intimidation of teachers and pupils had made normal teaching and learning impossible.

Later that month, protests erupted again, with some residents turning on one another. Rubble was set on fire in the streets and a number of people were injured. A section of the N2 was closed to motorists.

After consultations with parents it was agreed that the school’s Grade 11 and 12 pupils would move to the Cape Teaching and Leadership Institute (CTLI) in Kuils River until the end of the school term. The department said the pupils would take part in an intensive academic programme.

“The reports we have received from parents are that it is going very well with these children,” said Michels.

Grant’s spokeswoman Bronagh Casey said that even before the protests the department had been trying to find a temporary solution to the overcrowding at the school.

“The department has also been seeking a more permanent solution through the acquisition of land owned by the national Department of Public Works. Once we have acquired this land we will be able to begin building of a new permanent school.”

She said the protests were unfortunate because they disrupted teaching. “However, the department has since made numerous efforts in ensuring that all the work that was missed during this disruptive period has been addressed.”

Casey said 10 mobile classrooms were due for completion by the start of the third term.

The Grade 11 and 12 pupils sent to CTLI would occupy them from July 16.

The department was arranging for all furniture and equipment to be delivered during the school holidays.

When a further seven or eight classrooms were built, more pupils would move in

“The Grade 11 and 12 learners have progressed well at the CTLI,” Casey added.

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Cape Argus