Western Cape principal locked up as parents protest over overcrowded classrooms

Protesting community leaders and parents stopped learning and tuition at Wallacedene Primary School on Wednesday.
Protesting community leaders and parents stopped learning and tuition at Wallacedene Primary School on Wednesday.
Image: Vincent Lali

Protesting community leaders and parents stopped learning and tuition at Wallacedene Primary School, in the Western Cape, on Wednesday.

“We have no control over the situation as the parents have forced kids out of their classrooms,” said Elliot Mampintshi, a security guard.

“We have locked up and detained the principal in a classroom to force the department to send senior officials to listen to us,” said community leader Linda Phito.

The principal was still locked up when GroundUp left the protest on Wednesday.

The demonstrators sang struggle songs and carried placards that read: “Kids are overcrowded in class”, “We need playground for sport” and “We want a school kitchen”. They also burnt tyres in the street.

“About three years ago, we asked the [education] department nicely to give us temporary classrooms to accommodate surplus learners,” said Phito. “We are now tired of waiting.”

“We want each classroom to have 30 kids, like in white schools,” he said. “This is one of the best-performing schools in the province, but the department fails to meet its needs.”

“My daughter [in grade 5] says she sometimes doesn’t hear what her teachers says because her classmates become noisy and disorderly in her jam-packed classroom,” he added.

Chairperson of the school governing body (SGB) Sikhangele Mabhulu warned the demonstrating parents: “Don’t burn the school, otherwise you will be forced to sit with them at home, as they will have no school.”

Mabhulu said because of overcrowding at Wallacedene, parents had to send their children to schools further away and pay for transport.

Unathi Ngcwanyo, who has twins in grade 2, said: “In some crowded classrooms kids are forced to sit on the floor for the whole day.”

“We can’t control kids in classrooms with over sixty learners,” a teacher told GroundUp. “We struggle to cope with paperwork. We mark papers until we get exhausted and work on them at home.”

She said pupils spent class time standing in long lines waiting for food from the small school kitchen.

Nomga Zwane, who has children in grades 3, 5 and 7, said the kitchen is cramped, dirty and dilapidated.

“Cooks bring spoons and pots from their homes.”

She also said parents want stones and other objects removed from the playing field so that it can be utilised.

Spokesperson for the Western Cape education department Bronagh Hammond said the department “would like to address these concerns with the SGB and are determining what is possible with the budget and resources available”.

She said: “The district is investigating the possibility of a feeding scheme kitchen.”

“It is sad that the learners are being affected when constructive engagement has been proposed,” said Hammond.

The school was still not operating on Thursday.

Article originally published on GroundUp.

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