Community Protest Action in Mfuleni preventing access to schools will not be tolerated
Statement by Minister Debbie Schäfer
The WCED has for some time been negotiating with the Mfuleni Education Forum and the Mfuleni Development Forum with regards to new schools to accommodate the learners who still require placement.
There however seem to be different groupings within the community who are abusing and manipulating the situation for their own purposes. It also appears that there are various interests at play and not all want the same outcome. This makes the situation incredibly difficult to manage. Our officials have now also come under threat. This is totally unacceptable.
This morning, a school requested to close for safety reasons as protestors outside the school were violent. Another school was stoned.
It is alleged that some community members, reportedly those who are seeking placement for their children, have now disrupted teaching and learning at all Mfuleni schools indicating that no learner in Mfuleni will attend school until every child can be accommodated.
Many of these learners seeking placement are new and late applications.
On Thursday last week I met with the Mfuleni Education Forum, the Mfuleni Development Forum, City Councilors and Education Officials. All parties expressed commitment to resolving any issues and disputes in the best interest of the learners’ education. It appears that we were misled.
The Education Department proposed that the Primary School learners will temporarily platoon with a nearby primary school until the WCED has built the new primary school on the Fairdale site. The WCED has planned to build a new primary school on a nearby vacant piece of land, and the City has indicated that it would expedite the application to ensure that learners have access to the new mobile school as soon as possible.
The WCED has almost completed a 16 classroom school in the Silver Sands area which will accommodate the high school learners seeking placement.
The Metro North Education District, in collaboration with the Mfuleni Development Forum, also agreed to platoon the high school children as a temporary measure until the mobile school is erected on Erf 1. The new Silversands site can however accommodate all high school learners but people are refusing to send their children there. The Silversands project is 75% complete and has already cost the department over R10 million. The project has been delayed a number of times due to community protest.
The Mfuleni forum said that they would take this proposal to the community and officials met with the forum on Friday last week. Our officials then agreed to meet again with the Fora and some parents on Wednesday evening, but the meeting turned violent and the officials had to be escorted out, fearing for their safety.
We have tried the diplomatic approach with the Mfuleni Fora in the best interest of the learners, and we shall now lay criminal charges against the perpetrators and take whatever other legal action we can to ensure that we get these learners into school. Some community leaders are very unhappy with this behaviour. There are also unconfirmed reports of people in the forum selling teacher and principal posts, which we shall not tolerate. I have requested evidence in this regard but I have been informed that people are too scared to come forward.
This is abhorrent behaviour and we cannot allow individuals from communities to disrupt schooling and prevent learners from attending school to further their own interests. I call on the communities, the parents of learners whose schooling has been disrupted and those who seek placement for their children to work with the WCED to ensure that the learners who are seeking placement can be accommodated at school as soon as possible. Do not let agenda seeking individuals decide your child’s future!
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