PE school shutdown suspended

Parents set deadline for provincial education department

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Photo of Christian Martin handing over a letter of complaint to Human Rights Council
Christian Martin with St Albans Primary School pupils and a parent handing over a letter of complaint to Thabang Kheswa of the SA Human Rights Council. Photo: Joseph Chirume

The month-long school shutdown in the northern areas of Port Elizabeth was suspended last night after parents from 36 schools voted to give the Department of Education time to address their grievances.

At a meeting at Hillside High School on Wednesday night, parents from 36 out of 42 schools voted to give the Eastern Cape Education Department until 18 March to resolve the issues they had raised.

Parents from six schools voted to keep their children at home until their demands were met.

Parents are asking that all vacant posts be filled; that a 30:1 pupil to teacher ratio be applied; that schools have control over their own finances; and that outstanding budgets be paid to schools.

WestEnd Primary school principal and chairman of the Northern Areas Education Forum, Ronald Matthys, said he was happy the children would return to school.

A total of 56 Northern Areas schools were shut down by protesting parents in the first week of the new term in January this year, affecting 50,000 pupils.

Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masuelle set up a task team to investigate problems in education in the whole Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage region. The committee has not yet submitted its findings to the Premier.

Meanwhile ANC MPL Christian Martin asked the South African Human Rights Commission,(SAHRC) to force the Department to appoint teachers and address the other grievances of the parents. He also wrote to Basic Education minister Angie Motshekga asking her to come to Port Elizabeth to assess the situation herself.

“Our demands are simple: one teacher one class,” said Martin, who has been sleeping in the auditorium at the Port Elizabeth offices of the Eastern Cape Department of education .”That’s what we want for now.”

He said he would continue to sleep in the auditorium until this demand was met.

Pastor Hezron Marais of the AFM church of South Africa, who has also been sleeping in the auditorium, said parents should “stop sacrificing our children”.

“We should instead pray and fast while our children are going to school”

New Brighton parent Yandiswa Budoza, whose two children attend Parkside Primary School, said she was happy that schools would be opened.

“My children are still young and for them to stay in the location was not good.There are many criminals and bad people there. Children should spend more time at school to avoid that.”

Other parents also welcomed the decision.

SAHRC Acting Provincial Manager Thabang Kheswa said people should not be intimidated into closing schools. “Education is one of the fundamental rights of all children.That right should not be compromised … A child must be in school waiting for a teacher. In that way you can put pressure on the department that the children are at school, but there are no teachers, not the other way round.”

TOPICS:  Education Human Rights

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