Residents fed up with death-trap Dibeng Primary School in Polokwane
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Snakes, falling bricks, classrooms filled with potholes, and an open roof are what about 500 Limpopo children under the age of 14 have to put up with.
The Dibeng Primary School at Dibeng village in Ga-Matlala, outside Polokwane, has been described as a death trap.
For more than 10 years, the community has been begging the provincial government to provide them with a primary school, or fix the existing dilapidated building, but to no avail.
Now the community has resorted to pulling their children out of the school and taking to the streets in protest.
The last straw came early this year when a pupil, while in class, was poking one of the many holes in the walls of a classroom trying to dislodge a lizard, only to find out that it was actually a snake. Children ran out of the class and never went back.
In 2019 a female teacher had to take early retirement after she broke her leg while teaching a class. She had accidentally stepped on one of the potholes that riddle the classroom floor.
Also in 2019, a brick fell on a teacher as he opened the door to a classroom to commence teaching.
Two weeks ago, about 500 community members took to the streets for three days, demanding that a new school be built.
Speaking to the Pretoria News while visiting the school yesterday, community leaders vowed not to participate in the October local government elections if there was no school, or at least a letter of commitment from the government. Also attending were school governing body members, the Mokone Matlala Development Forum and traditional leaders.
The community of Dibeng at Ga-Matlala vowed to take to the streets again if the school was not fixed as promised as far back as 2011.
Representing them was Theophilus Tloubatla, from the traditional leadership, who said: “This school was built in 1959 by the community around here so that children could attend school. We have tried to maintain it as best as we could, but we get no support from the government. In 2011 they promised us that the school was on the list to be refurbished, but they keep sending us from pillar to post when they have to get things done.
“They promised to have a school for us by 2018. Every three years when we change the SGB members they come up with excuses; we are sick and tired and we are taking to the streets.”
Tloubatla said children were often sent home when it started to rain because the roofs leaked.
“What kind of school is not safe for children? What kind of a parent would send their kids to a school like this? The teachers are not happy with this death trap. So we are taking our children out of school until it’s fixed.”
A document seen by the Pretoria News states that construction was supposed to have begun in April 2018 and ended in March 2020.
“The person responsible for infrastructure (only known as Maako) at the department told us that the budget was used for personal protective equipment,” Tloubatla said.
Department spokesperson Tidimalo Churned said: “We are aware and concerned about the situation at the school, and have since had engagements with stakeholders towards a solution. The last community meeting that was planned could not take place due to protests in the area and the subsequent lockdown alert level 4, which prohibits gatherings.
“The school was placed on the list of construction projects, and mobile classrooms were provided as a temporary solution while waiting for construction to begin.
“Dibeng has two dilapidated unusable blocks of three classrooms each. The two blocks were replaced with six mobile classrooms. It therefore means that these two blocks are no longer being used as the mobile classrooms provided are replacing those inhabitable classrooms."