South Africa 14.6.2018 08:30 am

Two years on from Vuwani protests and learners still left to suffer

Communities claim the Department of Education has failed to renovate some of the 28 schools left badly damaged during the rioting. 

There is finally peace in the Vuwani area of Limpopo province which in 2016 was the epicentre of violent demarcation protests by communities who targeted a number of schools and other State institutions as they vented their anger at government.
Almost 30 schools were either gutted or badly damaged during demarcation protests and the aftermath of that violent orgy still resonates today.
Communities claim the Department of Education has failed to renovate some of the 28 schools left badly damaged during the rioting.
The School Governing Body (SGB) at Khwara Secondary school in Mashau village is worried that parents are pulling their children out of the school and sending them to other nearby schools because of the poor state of classrooms and infrastructure.
Despite being one of the schools which were damaged during the Vuwani demarcation protests, the school has not been renovated since 1982.
The chairperson of Khwara Secondary’s SGB, Joyce Bulala, said the school was already badly rundown, and that the situation had been made worse by the protests in 2016.
“This school has never been renovated since 1982. It has got holes everywhere, posing a danger to the safety of the learners. Before the protest, we were already complaining to the department but our complaints seem to fall on deaf ears,” said Bulala.
Khwara Secondary used to have more than 600 learners enrolled at the school, but since 2016, parents started pulling their children out of the school and it is now left with less than 250 learners.
“We are afraid that if parents continue to remove learners we might end up shutting down the school. If the Department of Education could just act swiftly and start renovating the school, we believe that most of our learners will come back to the school.
“Parents are only unhappy because the condition at the school is not good. But it seems like the only language our government understands is protest. Maybe if we protest they will listen to our complaints,” she said.
Last year parents had to each contribute R30 to buy glass for windows and doors for classrooms as learners were complaining that they were unable to concentrate in class due to the coldness.
Elsewhere, contractors sent to work on Frank Mukhaswakule Primary School in Mashau village have walked out on the job, leaving unfinished classrooms, dilapidated old pit toilets and dangerous holes in the school grounds because they have not been paid.
“Weeks ago we were promised that by now the contractors will be back at the school, but even now we are still waiting for them. There is no sign that they will be coming back anytime soon. The conditions at the school remain a danger to learners as they are still forced to use dangerously dilapidated toilets. If they do not finish re-building the school this year, I will be pulling out my child next year,” said Tshililo Mudau, a concerned parent.
 
Education department spokesperson Sam Makondo said the department was aware of the situation at Vuwani schools and said they could not all be renovated at once.
“The schools will be renovated bit by bit when budget permits. But at Frank Mukhaswakule Primary contractors will be back at the site soon. We have already finished renovating most of the schools which were damaged during the protest,” said Makondo.
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