While millions of South Africans around the country celebrated 23 years of democracy on Freedom Day yesterday, more than 1000 pupils from schools around the province marched to the department of education’s head offices in Zwelitsha to demand de cent classrooms.
Together with members from Equal Education (EE), the pupils from about 20 schools who were ferried in buses to the provincial police headquarters in Zwelitsha where the protest started, marched to the department of education headquarters to hand over a memorandum of demands.
The pupils are from schools such as Lingelethu High School near Mount Coke, Mzomhle in Mdantsane and Hector Peterson High in Zwelitsha. The education lobby group and pupils gave the MEC for education, Mandla Makupula, seven worki
ng days to make public the plan to upgrade schools which are made of inappropriate structures such as wood and mud.
Clad in their different school uniforms, the pupils held placards, some of which read: “Tata Gupta please build us a school” and “We want proper sanitation at our school”.
Led by traffic and police vehicles, the pupils sang struggle songs as they marched in scorching heat.
Speaking at the march, EE’s deputy head, Masixole Booi, said after 23 years of democracy, South Africa was still divided into two worlds – those who could afford decent schooling and the poor working class.
“We belong to the poor working class that is why we are here today.
“We want to remind the department that we, the sons of the poor, we want to be educated and demand quality education,” Booi said.
The memorandum was accepted by the department director for community liaison and stakeholders management, Monde Sangqu, who said Makupula was not able to meet the marchers as he was attending a Freedom Day celebration event in Mbizana.
Some of the demands include:
lUnfinished schools that were still being upgraded, such as Mount Ayliff Hospital School, to be informed in writing why there was a delay and when the upgrades would be completed;
lThe department to fix schools with failing infrastructure;
lFor adequate water and sanitation solutions to be provided to schools where pupils had to relieve themselves outside in open spaces;
lThe department to create a blacklist of failed contractors and deduct penalties for slow progress in construction.
The march formed part of EE’s three-day programme to highlight the plight of the Eastern Cape’s “forgotten schools” and to demand infrastructure plans that prioritised these schools. The programme started with the launch of a report by the education lobby group titled, “Planning to Fail”.
The report highlights the plight of 60 schools across seven districts in the province, where 17 schools were found to be operating in “outright violation of the law” when it came to norms and standards for school infrastructure.
Thirteen were made of inappropriate structures, five had no toilets and only 15% of the schools visited had flushing toilets.
The minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure sets out what physical infrastructure schools should have for pupils to receive proper, quality education.
In terms of norms and standards, by November 29 last year, all schools had to have access to some form of sanitation, as well as power and water supply. Schools built of inappropriate materials, such as mud or wood had to be replaced with new school structures. The department’s spokesman, Malibongwe Mtima, said they would respond to the demands in detail.
“Some of the issues highlighted in the report and listed on the demands are already being addressed. I am sure we will respond even before the deadline,” Mtima said.