Dramatic start to academic year

The first day of school was filled with glitches, crime, anger and frustration in some provinces
The first day of school was filled with glitches, crime, anger and frustration in some provinces
Image: paylessimages / 123RF Stock Photo

The first day of schooling yesterday was punctuated by glitches, crime, anger and frustration in some provinces.

In Sebokeng in Gauteng it was a grim start to the day after an administration block at Khutlo-Tharo Secondary School was torched in the early hours of yesterday.

Police spokesperson Brig Mathapelo Peters said a caretaker at the school alerted the police to the fire.

About 100 parents who queued outside the Gauteng department of education's offices in the Johannesburg inner city were left frustrated as they waited to hear whether their children would be given space in schools.

In Soweto, there were long queues of frustrated parents who swamped the district office hoping to get placement for children.

Thandeka Madondo told Sowetan she arrived at the department's offices in the inner city at 6.30am in hopes of having her 10-year-old son and 15-year-old sister placed at school.

"My child and sister lived in Newcastle with my mother who died on November 25 last year. There is nobody to take care of them there and they had to move up to Joburg and live with me," she said.

The 26-year-old from Rosettenville said she has been struggling to get schools to accept and place her sibling and son since last week.

"I have been to five primary schools because my son is supposed to be in grade 5 this year and three high schools for my sister who is supposed to be in grade 10, but I was turned away. I even begged some of the principals but they refused," she said.

Mpumi Ngwenya, from Ridgeway, said she did not care where her six-year-old son would be placed because she was desperate for him to start school.

Gauteng department of education spokesperson Steve Mabona said the parents who came to department's head office were there for late applications and were being assisted.

"We also have parents who come to us to transfer from town fee-paying schools to township schools," he said.

In Alexandra, some parents whose children had not been placed at Marlboro Gardens Primary camped outside the school expressing frustration at being sent from pillar to post. Lindokuhle Hadebe said their children were rejected by the school and referred back to the district.

"I find the online application [system] really unfair and frustrating because I applied early even though my child was in the same school for grade R, but I still got rejected."

Elsewhere in Mbombela, Mpumalanga, parents stopped their children from attending classes, complaining about unsafe classrooms.

The pupils at Matsulu Primary School joined their parents and the school governing body (SGB) in a protest.

The SGB claimed that the department of education took funds meant for the rebuilding of the oldest school to refurbish another local school which was damaged by a storm a year ago.

"We decided to close the school and not let our children go in because it is a death trap. The school was built in 1970, it's 50 years now. It is old and cracking. The roof and walls might fall onto the children.

"It's not only unsafe for the children but the teachers too because all parts of the buildings are falling apart," said deputy chairperson of the SGB, Sipho Nkambule.

"What we know is that the department had planned to refurbish or rebuild the school but a year ago another local school was hit by a storm and that money was moved to that school and we had to wait. Now we can't wait and we can't have our children going inside those buildings. They will die in there so we are avoiding such accidents," said Nkambule.

Department spokesperson Jasper Zwane said they would send officials to the school to find out what the problem was.

Pupils at Mshadza Primary School, outside Hazyview, had to return home because mobile classrooms were only being delivered yesterday.

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