/ 28 May 2012

Limpopo department puts new school on back burner

Limpopo Department Puts New School On Back Burner

The department was responding to a report about children being taught under trees in Limpopo, featured on the front page of the Sunday Times newspaper.

According to the article, 14 teachers at Selowe primary school in Silvermine, 120km from Polokwane in Limpopo, taught 165 children without receiving any compensation.

The school had no classrooms with lessons conducted under marula trees and a single shack with specific trees allocated to specific grades.

There were no textbooks, stationery, chairs, desks or toilets. The school was reportedly established after parents decided not to send their children to schools in two neighbouring villages after pupils were nearly raped on their way to school.

The newspaper reported that authorities offered to provide transport to two state schools in neighbouring villages but parents rejected the offer.

New school
Local residents showed correspondence with the education department from October 2010 onwards, in which an official supported the idea of establishing a new school, the Sunday Times said.

According to the newspaper, the department said resources were not available to establish a new school. This was contained in minutes of a meeting between principal Evans Seanego and the department in April.

Department spokesperson Pat Kgomo said they received an application for the establishment of Selowe primary school from Silvermine residents on September 9 last year.

A feasibility study was conducted on November 3 in the area and showed a need for a school in the village. Kgomo said for a school to be established, the department needed to plan for provision of infrastructure, water and sanitation, learner teacher support materials, teachers, and norms and standards.

On December 12, community representatives told the department they would withdraw their children from two primary schools four and six kilometres away unless their application for a new school was approved. The department met residents on January 17 and said it would not be possible to establish a school in 2012.

No obligation
Parents were offered transport to the two state primary schools but they rejected this, Kgomo said.

On January 18, parents removed their children from the two state schools and established Selowe primary school, against the department’s advice. The department was under no obligation to pay the teachers because none of them were qualified to teach, nor could they offer the recognised curriculum.

In February, MEC Namane Dickson Masemola sent officials to Silvermine to ask locals to reconsider the department’s offer of transport to the two state schools. “This meeting was also attended by local councillors of Blouberg municipality. Again, the community rejected this option,” Kgomo said.

Several meetings had taken place since then between residents and education officials. If the impasse continued, the department would have no other option but to seek other legally enforceable alternatives.

The establishment of Selowe primary school had been approved for January 2013, with road improvement discussions already underway with the municipality, Kgomo said. – Sapa