Emotions run high at Injongo

An unidentified man drags Thuliswa Elias after he hit her in full view of the police.

A Grade 11 pupil from Bulumko High School was assaulted during a protest against systemic evaluation tests.

It was during a protest by pupils from schools around Khayelitsha, to demand that Injongo Primary School stop writing the tests, that chaos erupted and the pupils tried to force their way into the school premises to confiscate the systematic evaluation maths test papers which were being written by the Grade 7 pupils on Thursday October 13.

During the protest, a man, whose identity is known to Vukani, entered the school premises with a sjambok and one intention – to beat the pupils and chase them away. When Thuliswa Elias,17, fell to the ground, she was beaten several times and dragged along the ground as other pupils cried for help.

It took the intervention of Philiswa Marman, the chairperson of school governing body (SGB) and some staff members to stop the man, while police allegedly stood by and watched.

A weeping Thuliswa told Vukani that she planned to open a case of assault against the man who beat her and that she wanted the man to pay for her school tracksuit which he had damaged.

“I want him to pay for what he has done to me. He just beat me with a sjambok for no reason, while the police were watching. Why did he beat me? I did not even insult him or to talk to him, but he just hit me. My entire body is sore, and I’m now limping because he dragged me on the pavement,” she said.

About 50 pupils from Joe Slovo, Bulumko and Luhlaza, including teachers, had gathered outside the school from as early as 8am, remaining there until the afternoon, demanding the school hand them the exampapers. Teachers said each pupil writes these systematic evaluation tests, in language and mathematics, once every three years. The Western Cape Education Department uses the results to measure the quality of the education system.

However, they said, as members of the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) they were opposed to the tests, designated for Grade 3, 6 and 9 pupils, arguing that they were not helpful to teachers. It is alleged that all Khayelitsha school principals had held a meeting two weeks
earlier when they took a decision to not allow their pupils to write the tests.

The teachers said they were astonished when they heard that Injongo Primary had allowed its pupils to write the tests regardless.

They argued that they had raised many questions with the provincial Department of Education about these tests, but the department had failed to respond.

As tempers continued to flare, a group of concerned parents also gathered at the school to inquire about the protest and to calm the situation down.

A meeting was quickly arranged between the school principal, Sadtu and Congress of South African Students (COSAS) leaders to seek solution.

Cosas provincial executive Sinesipho Sidziya, 17, said they had been informed by the teachers that the tests were not helping them improve their academic performance. She said their main role was to support the teachers and to ensure that the Department of Education responded to complaints raised about this issue.

“We have been told that the department has spent R36 million on implementing the systematic evaluation test. We believe that this money could have been used to improve school infrastructure and build libraries. We will ensure that no schools in Khayelitsha participate in these tests,” she said.

SGB chairperson, Philiswa Marman confirmed to Vukani that after the meeting they had agreed that the school would not write the outstanding English test which was supposed to have been written after the maths paper.

Ms Marman said she believed the matter could have been handled better.

Jessica Shelver, spokesperson for MEC of Education Debbie Schafer, said the systemic testing started off well this week. However, she said, there are few schools that had not writtem. The circumstances were being investigated and disciplinary action taken,” she said.

“More than 1 000 schools will write the WCED’s systemic tests during October to assess the language and maths skills of learners in Grades 3, 6 and 9. The tests are important because they tell us exactly what we have to do to improve the language and maths skills of learners in all schools. We have used the test to develop our language and maths strategies,” she said.