Community shuts schools because more than 1000 children remain unplaced
Cape Town - The community of Mfuleni shut down all schools in the area yesterday because their children are still unplaced.
Parents, community leaders and pupils went from school to school closing them down.
Community leader Mzoli Matutu said they tried communicating with the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) about the problem.
“We have 1 458 pupils that are not placed, and we sent emails to the department asking them to meet with us but they never respond,” he said.
He said after a community meeting during the week they decided to shut down schools.This comes after last week they went to the Rosendal Department of Higher Education Training centre and opened a school in those premises.
Matutu said they asked the schools to close for now to show support until the WCED responds to them.
WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said the people who took part in the disruption are allegedly part of a group that has illegally occupied the Rosendal Department of Higher Education Training Centre and have created an illegal school, where they have also allegedly employed teachers.
She said the group went from school to school in an attempt to threaten principals and cause disruption.
“The actions by a group of Mfuleni community members today cannot be condoned,” she said.
Hammond said despite attempts to verify the names or number of the pupils at the school, management refused to hand over the list.
“The WCED has received reports from schools in the area, that some registered learners were taken out of schools to attend this illegal school. Therefore at this stage we do not know how many learners are late applications, and how many have already been placed in a registered school,” she said.
The WCED has said the number of unplaced pupils has decreased since the beginning of the year.
Hammond said the numbers have decreased by 6 400 from 13 838 at the start of the year to 7 438 as of February 26. She said the rapid growth in population in certain communities and late applications have contributed towards this.
“The WCED has placed mobiles [mobile classrooms] at schools to accommodate this growth, however, late applications and rapid growth cannot always be pre-determined,” she said.
She added they “do not have the budget to simply place mobiles wherever there is a need – it also has additional budget implications, as it would require a teaching post for each mobile placed”.
Meanwhile, parents of children from Forest Village near Eerste River have opened a school under trees in Old Faure Road, because their children have not been placed.
They have asked unemployed teachers from the community to help teach their children.
Parent Aliziwe Mgqwetho said the school still operates under trees because no one is coming to their rescue.
“We have been engaging the department about our situation but they are not listening,” she said.
She said the department told them to apply at nearby schools but when they did they were turned away because there is no more space.
Mgqwetho said they were also told that if they apply in other areas transport will be provided.
“We are concerned about our children’s safety if they use transport, because some of them are in Grades R and 1, they are young. Who will protect them?” she asked.
Hammond said the department is aware of a school allegedly operating illegally in Forest Village. She said certain community members are demanding that the WCED build a school within the new housing development.
She said WCED engaged with the community last year and at no stage were mobile units promised.
Hammond said the department has been confronted by similar attempts in the past, where certain teachers are vying for jobs through this kind of action by community members.
“Every offer was denied, or it was on condition that we use their existing teachers and create a new school on the premises of another,” she said.
Mgqwetho said the community asked the unemployed teachers for help because their concern is their children’s education.
Hammond said the WCED recently completed two new schools, Forest Village Leadership Academy in 2015/16 and Apex High School in 2017/18. She said they also completed a mobile school in 2019/20 called Apex Primary School which was expanded with 10 mobile classrooms last year.
“We will continue to engage with the parents of the community on the placement of their children. Unfortunately, those that refuse to take up our offers are doing so to the detriment of their child’s education,” she added.