Teaching and learning at Sokhanyo Primary School in Gugulethu was halted when a group of parents picketed at the school premises to raise their concerns about overcrowding and the poor state of classrooms on Thursday January 10.
The angry parents were upset, among others, that that two separate grades had been put into one class, that some classrooms had no chalkboards and that the overall state of classrooms was unacceptable. They told Vukani that two classrooms which had been damaged by fire four years ago, had not been repaired.
When Vukani arrived at the school last Thursday, few parents had gathered at the school premises while teachers, members of the school government body and officials from the education department locked themselves in a meeting.
Parents claimed that they’d had problems since the current principal Thetha Sithole was appointed in 2015-initially on a six-month contract.
Parent and former pupil, Siyabulela Mzamani, said Grade 7 and Grade 2 pupils had been put into one class.
He said it was impossible for children to focus when there were two grades in one class and questioned how teachers were able to properly teach when there were two different grades in one classroom.
Mr Mzamani also claimed that members of the school governing body were resigning, citing the principal’s running of the school as their reason.
He said the teachers also accused the principal of harassment and one claimed to have been assaulted by him. “We want the principal to resign.
“The school conditions are appalling. We are concerned about the future of our children. We want the department to act and resolve the matter.
“We have no idea how school finances were spent.
“There is completely no accountability and transparency at the school. There are no parentmeetings
“We are very much concerned about the safety of our children. We want these classes that were burnt to be repaired. The school must go back to its old ways. We are tired of this rude and autocratic man. The principal is a dictator,” he said.
Jessica Shelver, spokeswoman for Education MEC Debbie Schafer, confirmed that staff had complained about the principal allegedly bullying them and making decisions without consultation.
In this case, she said, the decision relates to the foundation phase teachers being moved to classrooms which were not as good condition as their original classrooms.
There is unhappiness in the Foundation Phase as he moved the phase to a different block and moved three teachers to different grades in the phase, she said.
According to the principal, Ms Shelver said, the decision to change grades had been made last year and staff had been informed of this during a meeting, of which he had the minutes.
“Our district officials have requested that the parent body draft a letter detailing their concerns for investigation.
“A meeting has been arranged with the SGB and district officials on Monday, with an agreed report back date of Wednesday next week.
“We are aware that on Friday morning, some parents had gone to the classes and told the children not to attend school,” she said.
Nomvuyo Mahlatshana said they, as parents, had decided to act because they could not allow things to continue as if everything was functioning optimally.