Empty promises made by the Department of Education that they would take parents and their Grade 1 to 3 learners who have not been admitted to schools in Polokwane on Tuesday to enrol, led to violence on Tuesday when the parents, having waited in vain for hours for a single official from the department to arrive, blockaded the area between the circuit office and the provincial headquarters of the department in Biccard Street with rocks, dustbins and debris which they set alight.
They also threatened to take learners already admitted out of the schools. “Why should they be in school while our children have not been admitted yet? Why should our children suffer alone? An injury to one is an injury to all.”
Police, traffic officials and members of the Community Safety Department of the Polokwane Municipality were on the scene quickly and the crowd dispersed. Some fled while others went back to the circuit office to wait once again in the hope that somebody will come to tell them what was going to happen next. “We were here yesterday too, but the departmental representatives asked us to give them more time to finalise arrangements,” one parent said.
Schools refuse parents
The parents have been reporting to the circuit offices of the department, awaiting placement of their children, for more than two weeks already. Many have been referred to schools by the circuit office only to be told at the schools that they do not have space anymore and a letter from the department was needed before they could admit them.
Parents lose their cool
Last Thursday angry parents also stormed the offices of the department in reaction to its failure to place the affected learners. Police had to escort parents off the terrain after they had reportedly become hostile and pulled a sliding entrance gate to the premises off its hinges, overpowered an unarmed security guard and forced their way to MEC Ishmael Kgetjepe’s office. They then met with the HOD, Beauty Mutheiwana.
The angry parents said the department had been sending them from pillar to post in their quest to have their children registered in schools and also complained that learners who had reportedly been enrolled at schools, and for whom uniform had been bought, were upon reporting to the schools told that the child’s name was not on the list or that the child was refused admission on grounds of the school being full.
Parents reportedly were escorted from the premises of one school following their alleged hostile behaviour about the school’s refusal to admit their children.
Last week a parent who could not pay school fees was allegedly denied admission at three schools where she had been referred to by the circuit. However, when a friend went to the same school she was given the required admission form to complete. Other parents said they had provided all the required documents but were still waiting for placement.
Most of the parents take off from work to queue at the department’s circuit office, many having already tried directly at schools to be admitted, but in vain. Last Monday Polokwane Observer was told by a parent, who has been to the circuit office twice before, that she saw the queue was too long, and that she would not be assisted that day. “I then went back home, and decided to come very, very early on Tuesday.”
Naledzani Rasila, Head of Communications of the Department of Education last week could not supply the number of children who have not yet been admitted, saying new people come to the circuit offices in Polokwane daily and the number keeps on increasing. “The number on the list is about 100 now,” he said. On Tuesday he could not comment on the incident, saying that he was not at work.
Story and photos: NELIE ERASMUS
Featured photo: Police, traffic officials and members of the Community Safety Department of the municipality clear the road of burning debris, rocks, dustbins and chairs used by angry parents to block the road.