Refugees display their ingenuity in disused bus
The Gauteng education department has failed to honour its promise to transport children of displaced foreign nationals to schools.
On Monday the department said it had received the go-ahead to hire buses for pupils displaced by xenophobic violence and ferry them to schools nearest to their camps.
Most pupils have missed at least six weeks of schooling since the xenophobic violence erupted.
The Rand Airport road camp near Germiston, Ekurhuleni, was one of the shelters where pupils were to be ferried to school.
Instead the children went ahead with their daily lessons in a disused double-decker bus and tent that they use as a makeshift school.
The top section of the bus is used as a classroom and caters for two grades at a time. Younger pupils attend classes in the lower section of the bus and the tent that is divided into four classrooms.
Besides being taught maths and English, they do physical education, creative writing and poetry.
The school, named the Good Hope Centre, is headed by Zimbabwean national Patson Madzimure, who has five qualified teachers helping him.
The teachers wear name tags bearing the school's name, their position at the school and the South African flag.
The centre caters for 76 pupils from grade 1 to matric.
"In Zimbabwe I lectured in philosophy and psychology at the Midlands State University, Madzimure said. "When I came to South Africa I worked as a construction worker."
Madzimure said when he came to the camp he realised that children missed school and they were bored because there was nothing to do.
"There were other qualified teachers in the camp and we started the school," he said. "We have reading material and all the resources we need. Donors have been helpful."
Department camp coordinator Penny Masondo said the buses had no been sent to the camp because there was resistance from the foreigners.
"They are worried about their children's safety," Masondo said. "They want us to guarantee that they will not be harmed."
She said they would have a meeting with the people at the camp to try and reassure them about their children's safety today.
"We don't encourage schools in the camps because we encourage reintegration," she said.
"We visited Rand Airport last week and the teachers asked if we could employ them permanently.
"We don't have the means to employ anyone. We have a lot of teachers who are unemployed and we would have to start with them."
But Madzimure said: "The department promised they would consult us. We were not aware they planned to take the children to other schools. Did they consult the children's parents?
"The pupils' essays indicate that they are scared of going back to school for fear of intimidation and more violence."