With schools in the province opening on Wednesday about 100 children from Khayelitsha dressed in school uniform and with their parents to start school, but rather than walking to a school building, they gathered on open ground.
The children were part of a group of about 200 people who gathered on open ground in Zwelitsha where they said the Western Cape Education Department had two years ago promised to build a primary school, after last year attempting to close 14 schools in the province.
According to parents, temporary classrooms were supposed to have been built by the department but nothing had materialised.
The parents and children, led by ANC PR councillor Andile Lili, gathered at the site from 8am on Wednesday waiting for answers from the WCED.
Lili also had his child with him and wanted to register him for Grade 2.
“Since 2010 we’ve been waiting to have a school, this group has pointed out a school site, the department of education is aware of that. My child is here for Grade two and he did not find a school because most of the schools are full,” said Lili.
Ward 95 development forum (WDF) secretary Nolizwi Ngcana supported Lili and the demonstration by parents.
She told parents that the WCED had promised to be build mobile classrooms for pupils and the WDF had communicated the need for a primary school in the area to the department, which she said had agreed.
“We gave a list of about 300 pupils from grade 1 to 7 and parents are still registering their children. The department promised to come here and assist us to properly register our kids and once that is done they will build mobile classes,” she said.
But the WCED said they never promised to build a school on the site.
Education MEC Donald Grant’s spokesperson Bronagh Casey said the claims were “false”.
“The Department did not make a promise in 2010 for a new school in the area,” said Casey.
Ward 95 ANCYL Nelson Mandela branch secretary Xolisa Ngwekazi disagreed, saying a short-term agreement for mobile classrooms existed with the WCED.
Ngwekazi said a meeting with the WCED was held on meeting where “they assured us that they will found a school for our children”.
Parents left the site after Lili informed them that the department was not going to attend, but he made it clear that protests would occur if a school was not built.
Casey said the department was aware of the need for a school in the area and it had been included in the infrastructure plan for 2013/14 to 2015/16 infrastructure plan.
“The department is investigating possible sites to build the school. Once we have identified and secured a site, we can then start planning for a new school. Currently we are assessing a list of 300 children in the area that the community has given us,” said Casey.
She said many of the learners on the list already attended other schools.
However, some of the children were late enrolments and others were needing to enrol in Grade 1.
“We are determined to ensure that all learners of school going age are placed at a school. If there is still a need for additional accommodation we will investigate the possibility of mobile units. We will continue to consult with the community on these matters,” she said. –Nombulelo Damba