Following an uproar caused by parents at Ivy Park Primary School on Tuesday demanding that the school admit a number of late arrivals, Polokwane Observer was on Wednesday morning informed by one of the affected parents that the exercise somehow forced the school to admit learners to its Grade 1 classes.
Emmanuel Mnisi, whose two children have to be in Grades 4 and 5 and several other children were left out, he stated. He further said parents in the Capricorn district, who are still struggling to get space in schools were expected to meet with Department of Education (DoE) officials at Flora Park Primary yesterday (Wednesday) to try and resolve the challenges.
Nyiko Nkhuzana, DoE Manager for Capricorn district said the department met with parents on Tuesday and resolved that the school can only accommodate 15 Foundation Phase learners being Grades R and 1. She further confirmed that another meeting was scheduled for yesterday (Wednesday) to find ways to help parents who are still struggling to get space for their children.
“Priority will be given to those that are in the school’s feeder zones. Those who are not in the proximity of the school must go to their nearest school,” Nkhuzana said.
The demand for space at Ivy Park Primary School got a political favour when representatives of different political parties took up the fight on behalf of the late arrivals by assisting parents to picket at the entrance of the administration block. Parties represented are Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the African National Congress (ANC) in Limpopo. Educators locked themselves in the admin block while the Police were monitoring the situation. A Police helicopter also made rounds several times causing an uproar as parents shouted that they were not criminals but were fighting for their children’s rights to education.
Complaints were not only raised by the parents and officials representing the two political parties but groundsmen and cleaners at the school also expressed dissatisfaction as they claimed that they are being discriminated against and are forced to carry out abnormal duties. Cleaners Sheila Sibambo and Linah Ndine alleged that they were tasked to clean all the classrooms, ablution facilities and do laundry every day. Moloko Legodi, Solly Lewele and Enos Sehlapelo, responsible to maintain the yard, said the work was too much for three people.
The group also alleged that the school management doesn’t want them to speak to Department of Labour officials when they visit the school and reiterated that they are always excluded from activities taking place at the school. They further claimed that they are not getting paid enough for the work they do and on the other hand groundsmen highlighted that they don’t have adequate tools and have to cut grass at the sport fields using a household mower which consumes a lot of time. The three men further alleged that a tractor that was making the work easier for them was recently sold and no one gave them an explanation. The group reiterated that they are not allowed enough leave days to attend to family matters such as funerals and family gatherings.
On the day of the protest, parents alleged that they were told at the circuit office to take their children to Ivy Park. They further claimed that the department brought two mobile classrooms to the school to cater for additional learners but the school sent them back allegedly demanding that the mobile classes must have air-cons, mobile ablution facilities and that the department must appoint additional educators and general workers to cater for additional learners.
Earlier Mnisi said he stays behind the school but his two children can’t get admission, adding that he has been applying for admission for a while but with no luck. “We are in the school’s feeder zone but I have been sent from pillar to post since the first day of term. This is not fair and all we request as parents is for our children to be admitted. We know that each school is guided by the learner-educator ratio but adding one learner in each classroom won’t cause overcrowding,” Mnisi stressed and pleaded with the school management to have a heart and admit learners.
EFF Capricorn Regional Secretary Oscar Motolla emphasised that they were in solidarity with parents and claimed that parents were told by the circuit office to take their children to Ivy Park but the school doesn’t want to admit them. The ANC represented by Polokwane Sub-region Deputy Secretary Lesiba Matsimela and City Cluster Coordinator Mabotse Mothiba stated that their duty was to ensure that learners are admitted.
“We are not here to disrupt lessons but to help parents get admission for their children. We have realised that there are a number of schools in the city that are not treating learners and its employees well, so we are planning to visit such schools frequently to ensure smooth running of things,” they said, adding that schools that deny children admission push them to the streets to engage in criminal activities and consume harmful substances such as drugs and alcohol and this was unacceptable.
Department of Education Spokesperson Sam Makondo on Tuesday afternoon indicated that they were aware of the protest action at the school but cautioned that at this time of the year schools are not responsible for the admission of learners but circuit offices because they know schools which still have space.
When contacted for comment on Tuesday, acting principal Willem Opperman didn’t want to comment on the matter saying: “For now, no comment, sir”.
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