Masiphumelele school promises to address students’ demands

Students go back to class

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Photo of the high school
Masiphumelele High School. Photo: Thembela Ntongana

GroundUp covered the protest last week that saw Masiphumelele High School students absent from class. The students were protesting over a R120 levy that each student is told to pay per year and the manner of approach by educators and the principal. They demanded that 20 suspended students be reinstated; and that the shortage of textbooks be addressed. Corporal punishment has also been an ongoing problem at the school.

As of this week, all learners are back in class and all the students that wanted to return after they were suspended are also in school again.

School governing body (SGB) chairperson Silulami Mtirara says they talked to the students and reached an agreement.

“Not all the demands have yet been resolved, but we will sit with the department as well as well as the students representatives and try to resolve the issue the best way we can. What we need now is to have the students back in class … We cannot afford any more time. We do not want our children to fall into the culture of protesting when they want things.” said Mtirara.

He also noted that the principal had been put on leave by the department.

This is not the first time that students have protested against the school principal. In 2005, there was a violence when students asked for the principal to be fired from the school due to missing school funds.

The school’s deputy principal, Skahle Nhlabathi, said, “He was put on leave [for] last week because we were worried about his safety as students were still angry, but now I do not know where he is.”

Western Cape Department of Education spokesperson Jessica Shelver said there are still a number of grievances that are being addressed.

She says department officials met with three representatives from the SGB’s parent component, the principal, the deputy principal, and an educator. She said student complaints about principal and the educators were still being investigated.

On the issue of textbooks, which affected the grade 12 learners, she said: “Due to violent protests during the 2015 National Senior Certificate, the grade 12 cohort wrote their final exams at the Glencairn campsites, away from the school for their own safety. As a result the school found it difficult to implement the textbook retrieval policy and many learners failed to return their textbooks,” said Shelver.

She says despite home visits there were still a number of textbooks missing, some of which were destroyed in a spate of house fires that swept through the area towards the end of last year.

“The school is currently calculating the shortages and will place an order as soon possible. All schools need to have a textbook retrieval policy to ensure that they retrieve a minimum of 95% of the textbooks back from learners at the end of the school year. It is simply unsustainable to replace large numbers of textbooks every year,” said Shelver.

TOPICS:  Education

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