‘We just want them to register the school’

Protesters burnt tyres and rubbish in protest.

Joe Slovo parents have taken their fight to get their kids a decent education to the streets.

Parents of children attending an unregistered primary school in the neighbourhood lit barricades of tyres and rubbish in Freedom Way to vent their anger at education authorities, whom, they accused of ignoring their children’s plight.

By mid-morning on Thursday May 4, the black plumes of smoke could be seen from as far as the R27 in Milnerton.

When Sinenjongo High School moved to its new premises late last year, its old home at the container school just off Freedom Way stood vacant. So parents of school-going children who had not found places at any nearby school, took them there and an unregistered school, Khozi Primary School, started operating with 400 pupils and a group of qualified teachers.

From the start, parents vowed not to budge and accused the education system of forcing them to take desperate measures (“Pupils left in limbo,” Tabletalk, February 1).

At the time, Western Cape Education Department (WCED) spokeswoman Jessica Shelver said the site was not a school and any education there would not be formally recognised. She had also told Tabletalk then that the lease to Sinenjongo at the former site had ended and would not be renewed.

The school has still not been registered despite repeated pleas by parents, which also included a march by parents and the community to Parliament in April to demand official registration.

On Thursday, groups stood facing Metro police in riot gear, and firefighters were sweeping away the debris as PR councillor Ursula Barends arrived.

Following community leader Godfrey Jonas, she walked briskly to a group of women who were debating loudly, close to the line of burning debris. The noise died down as she chatted to them, and one of the women lowered her loud hailer.

Nodumo Mvenelo, one of the parents, said they all had the same demand: “We just want them to register the school and help us out with books.”

She vowed that parents would continue protesting until their demands were met.

Later some of the women went with Ms Barends to the school where they complained about a lack of facilities there.

Charities have made drops at the school, including a new gas stove and kitchen equipment and socks for the children (“Staff emotional after donation to school,” Tabletalk, February 22), but parents say they are in dire need of books, desks, chairs and stationery.

After the protest had died down, Mr Jonas told Tabletalk, that the community did not expect the WCED to build a new school.

“The school is already here. We just want them to register the school and give us the materials. The teachers are already here and they are qualified.”

Parents say Marconi Beam Primary School, a registered school that is just a corner away from Khozi, is already overcrowded. But at Khozi, pupils from Grade R to Grade 8 lie or sit on the floor to study.

WCED spokeswoman Millicent Merton said three mobile classrooms had been placed at Marconi Beam Primary School and a further two at Tygerhof Primary to accommodate the pupils.

“Additional teachers have also been allocated,” she said.

Ms Barends said the protesting parents wanted the WCED “to take cognisance” of their complaints “both about registering the school and about the overcrowding at Marconi Beam”.

She said she would visit Marconi Beam to see the overcrowding for herself.