Parents shut down schools in Khayelitsha

Parents and activists closed a number of schools in Khayelitsha in June last year because they were "not safe". Archive Photo by Mzi Velapi

The WCED has condemned the shutting down of schools by parents demanding that the schools be deep cleaned after teachers test positive for covid-19.

Since the start of the week, a group of parents and activists in Khayelitsha have been going around the township shutting down schools as they deem them unsafe for operating as some schools have not been deep cleaned despite there being positive covid-19 cases among teachers. Schools in the Western Cape were opened on the 1st of June despite the eleventh hour postponement by the national Department of Basic Education that saw the date being moved by a week to the 8th of June. Parents started demonstrated their opposition to the reopening of schools in townships like Bishop Lavis and some areas of Khayelitsha from the first day.

While addressing the crowd outside Chuma Primary school, activist and community member, Mabhelandile Twani, said that their actions are not linked to any political party and that they are only concerned about the safety of township schools and the number of teachers that have tested positive and have died from covid-19 in Khayelitsha. “The schools are not safe. We were told that the school only got personal protective equipment late last week. There are teachers at the school who have tested positive for covid-19 and the school has not been deep cleaned but they want the learners to go to the classrooms. Let me clarify that this action is not led by any political party or COSAS [Congress of South African Students],” he said.

Khayelitsha is a covid-19 hotspot in the Western Cape and in the country, reporting 5,318 cases and 4,129 recoveries by the 16th of June.

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Zimasa Ntsume, a parent who participated in the picket, said that schools need to give parents some assurance that they are safe. “We want the Department of Health to give us surety by issuing compliance certificates that the schools have been deep cleaned. Teachers in Khayelitsha are dying of covid-19 and this makes schools unsafe. Also the conditions of our schools in Khayelitsha and other townships do not allow for social distancing. Things are going to be worse when other grades go back to school,” she said.

Another parent, Ntomboxolo Kula, criticised the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) for going around saying that “things are fine and that the schools are ready when things are not fine at all. Maybe they are talking about former Model C schools and not our schools.”

Nomahlubi Dlula, the School Governing Body chairperson from Nomsa Maphongwana Primary School, said that they had to redirect the money that was meant for extra-curricula activities to buy personal protective equipment. “We then managed to buy shields, sanitisers and masks. The WCED merely topped up what we already had at the school. We have 136 Grade 7 learners and they have been divided into eight classes. We also managed to buy body temperature screening devices,” she said.

“We have managed to do all of this because we have dedicated and united governing and management bodies at the school,” Dlula said.

The WCED condemned the closing of schools and said that the “disruptions” are “illegal and not in the best interests of teachers and learners”. Bronagh Hammond, the WCED spokesperson, said that, “There has been no delay to the delivery of PPEs. This is untrue. The schools in the area have received the same cleaning and safety materials as any other school in the province.”

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The picketers said that they will, together with the Khayelitsha Education Forum, engage the WCED on their concerns.

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