Standoff between parents and department stops 300 children from learning
Velina Sehlabi's three grandchildren have not been going to school since the end of the first term in March.
The children - Mosetsanagape, 14, David, 10, and Karlina Najane, 8 - spend their days playing marbles, singing songs and sometimes reading their school books.
The children are some of the at least 300 Jachtkraal Farm School pupils at Delareyville in North West whose parents have not sent them to school because of a dispute over a new school.
The school caters for grades R to 6 pupils.
When schools opened for the second term on April 10, the pupils were supposed to move to a new school at Delareyville Extension 8 - about 10km away - but their parents have refused.
They insist that the department build them a school on their land or fix the old one. The new school is unoccupied and has water, electricity and sports fields. The old farm school has no ceiling, toilets and electricity wires are hanging dangerously low.
Unemployed Sehlabi, whose shack does not have running water or electricity, said she understood that her family's only way out of poverty was through her grandchildren's education, but was adamant they would not go back to school.
"We are not using our children but the department cannot just move our school without consulting the School Governing Body or the community. It is not our fault that the children have not been to school. They must promote them to the next grade."
The family survives on the children's social grants and sometimes their father gets temporary work.
Mosetsanagape, who is in Grade 2, said: "I miss school. I miss singing and reading and doing school work."
Children in the largely farming community spend their days fetching water, cleaning, playing and tending to animals. School governing body deputy chairman Themba Ntlema said: "We cannot move our children from this school. We want the government to build a school on our land. There has to be development here. When they gave us notice in March we told them that we could temporarily move to the new school if they start repairing the toilets at our old school.
"The other reason we do not want the children to go to the other school is that, even though they will be given transport, we are scared that they will get lost or the girls will be raped. They are farm children and have not been out in the world."
The teachers have been reporting to George Madoda Primary School in the area.
The community of about 300 families was transferred to the land by the Department of Land Affairs in 1997. They do not have title deeds but a provisional letter tellingthem that they own 352.8 hectares.
Land Restitution spokesman Tshifhiwa Tshukudu said the property was transferred to beneficiaries in December 2006.
"I have handed the matter to our legal unit to confirm to whowas the title deed issued," said Tshukudu.
The residents live in shacks and have no running water and electricity. There is a damaged borehole in the middle of the area, which is shared by people, horses and pigs.
During the time they have been put off school, the children have missed out in writing the Annual National Assessments for grades 1, 2 and 6 pupils. North West education spokesman Gershwin Chuenyane said the school had been closed by the Department of Labour due to the actions of the property farmer, who is the owner .
The department then found a school in Delareyville town and offered them transport , but the parents turned them down.The department is in negotiations to reopen the school this month. -firstname.lastname@example.org