Intimidation at Limpopo schools continues
The National Association of School Governing Bodies (NASGB) and rights organisation Section27 told school governing bodies it was their right to govern schools and speak out against problems they face, which include severely overcrowded classrooms, staff shortages, and poor infrastructure.
"Some school governing bodies could not come to the workshop because they were told by principals, 'if you speak out about problems you will not be recognised as school governing bodies'," Matakanye Matakanye, secretary general of NASGB, told the Mail & Guardian this week.
"We told them it is their right to govern schools under the South African Schools Act. No one can intimidate them into not speaking out. We don't want to hear that this is happening in a democratic society," he said.
"If they don't speak out then how do we know there is a problem?"
About 200 principals, parents, pupils, teachers and school governing body members attended a workshop on Saturday, which was hosted by Section27, the Treatment Action Campaign and NASGB about basic education rights in Giyani, Limpopo. In the light of court action brought by Section27 against the department over non-delivery of textbooks schools have reported they have been threatened with their jobs into not speaking to the organisation or the media.
But delegates did not hold back at the workshop in giving "eye-opening" accounts of school conditions.
Section27 tweeted on the day: "Reports of 120 and 180 learners in one classroom; at certain schools, parents are being asked to pay R240 a year for electricity costs at school; delegates reporting that learners at a school cleaning school, not in class, told principal, nothing done; one school reported that there is no furniture at the school – no desks, nothing!! Learners are sitting on the floor."
Section27 was told that at a meeting months ago between principals and Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga "principals were told 'don't talk to the media or Section27 if you value your job'".
"It's more than frustrating to hear this. All these principals are trying to do is provide the best education they can [to pupils]. This speaks volumes about how whistleblowers are treated," said attorney at the organisation Nikki Stein.
Section27 has taken the basic education department to court three times this year over the non-delivery of textbooks in Limpopo.