Parents in school revolt

Sipho Masombuka

Sipho Masombuka

Parents of pupils at a school in Mpumalanga have stopped sending their children to school because they say the building is a health and safety hazard.

Fed-up parents told Sowetan that they took the drastic decision because they were tired of the provincial education department's empty promises of building a new school.

Since the decision to boycott the Khul'ufunde Intermediate School in Vlaklaagte was taken on Wednesday last week, teachers had been confronted by empty classes with no one to teach.

The rafters and the ceilings in all the nine classrooms of the 22-year-old building are being eaten away by termites.

Teachers say they support the parents' decision.

The staff room alternates as a library, kitchen and storeroom. The more than 520 pupils share two overflowing pit toilets, while the 12 staff members share the other two pit toilets.

Pupils and staff are forced to relieve themselves at neighbouring houses or in the bushes.

A member of the school management committee, Sylvia Mtsweni, said they had done all they could to get the department to renovate the school or build a new one, to no avail.

Chairman of the school governing body, Josiah Madonsela, said he wrote a letter to Education Minister Naledi Pandor in January last year explaining the dire situation at the school.

Madonsela said: "In June last year surveyors were sent to the school. We were told the school had decayed beyond repair and that a new structure would be built in December last year.

"But nothing has happened. Instead, the circuit manager accuses the staff of being responsible for the caving in of ceilings. It shows that the department is not prepared to help."

Parent Sarona Mtsweni said until they see material for a new building they will not send their children to the school.

"We are aware that our children are losing valuable learning time but we'd rather have uneducated children than dead or sick ones.

"We can also enroll them at neighbouring schools," she said.

Education department spokesman Hlahla Ngwenya said regional director JJ Mabena visited the school last week and met parents.

"He pleaded with the parents to send the children to school and said the school building was still suitable for housing the pupils.

"The only dire problem he noticed was the toilets. The process of taking mobile toilets to the school has already started, with the problem now being their security and maintenance."

Ngwenya said Mabena would meet the parents again next month to update them on the renovation or building of the school.

Councillor Thami Kubheka criticised the parents' decision at a meeting at the school yesterday.