Pupils out in the cold

Mvula Primary School pupils sit anxiously on dirt bins during school hours.

A Nyanga primary school has been closed for two weeks amid protests against the education department for wanting to pay the school’s founding principal five years of pension for her more than 30 years of work in the community.

Florence Dlamsha, 65, built Mvula Primary School from scratch in the 1980s and ran it without any state support for the community’s children until 2012, when it was then handed over to the Western Cape Education Department (WCED).

The protests rocked the neighbourhood after Ms Dlamsha discovered the education department would only pay her a pension for the time her school had fallen under its control.

Residents and school pupils have taken to the streets accusing the department of treating Ms Dlamsha unfairly and making changes at the school without consulting her.

Teaching stopped when pupils and some residents torched tyres, toyi-toyied and closed roads, forcing motorists to find alternative routes.

Governing body treasurer Nicholas Futshane said the school belonged to them and they would not be strong-armed by the department.

“They want to retire the school principal without consulting with us.

What they forget is this school was built by the very same woman. It is her school because they came to join her very late, in 2012.

“For years they have been refusing to take the school. After they did, they want to bully us. We won’t be bullied,” he said.

He claimed a new principal had been imposed on them and proper procedures had not been followed.

Principal Dlamsha said she had sacrificed a lot to build the school out of nothing and with no support.

“People were baying for my blood because they wanted to build houses on this land. I fought for it alone. I put structures and called it a school. I had to seek donors to have proper structures. Where was the department of education then?

“When I asked them to take us, they refused until 2012 when they finally put us under them,” she said.

She felt insulted that the the department wanted to now retire her and give her a five-year package after her more than 30 years of work in the community.

“What that means is I must go to Sassa next week. After 33 years of struggle I must then get a five-year package. That is ridiculous and shows a lack of respect,” she said.

Ms Dlamsha said she wanted to department to consult with her and compensate her for the work she had done for the community.

By the time of going to press, the WCED had not responded to calls and emails from Vukani.