Xesi families fall through crack

Parents from Mhala Public Primary School in Xesi location in Tsholomnqa are distraught at the way their children have been “dropped by the system”.

Pupils from Phozi Lower Primary in Chalumna staged a protest earlier this year following the provincial education department’s decision to merge their school with another about 5km away. Pupils from Mhala Public Primary School in Xesi location in Tsholomnqa are facing the same fate. PICTURE: FILE/SINO MAJANGAZA

The education department closed their school and merged it with a school 7km away without providing them with transport.

Many parents in Xesi cannot afford transport, which means some children have to walk alongside the R72 to their new school.

Mhala Primary was closed on April 18 and merged with Lungisa Primary in Jojweni in Tsholomnqa.

The merger is part of the department’s rationalisation programme to close small, unviable schools and merge them with better-resourced schools nearby.

In an interview recently, department team leaders for the rationalisation project Jonathan Godden and Phaphama Mfenyana said scholar transport was not guaranteed and construction of hostels would be proposed in cases where schools were too far for children to travel.

Parent Nolufefe Daniso said they were not even notified as to when exactly the school would close.

“One morning in April we saw a taxi coming to fetch our children to take them to the new school and nobody had informed us. That taxi only transported our children for a few weeks and at the end of May the driver stopped, claiming he was not being paid,” said Daniso.

Daniso said they reported it to department’s district office and the scholar transport office.

“This is a difficult situation as some children are sitting at home whereas they should be in school. And it is not by choice, it is because most parents here are unemployed and most households are headed by grandparents who rely on old-age grants,” said Daniso.

Daniso said some parents were using their monthly R380 child grant to pay for a taxi service that cost R400 a month.

Buyiswa Flepu also fears the riskiness of scholar transport. She has a five-year-old granddaughter in Grade R, and she has seen news of many scholar transport accidents.

“My grandchild was much safer when she was at Mhala, because I used to walk her to school and fetch her. Now she’ll use transport that is unreliable and possibly unsafe,” said Flepu, adding that finance was also a problem.

“I do not get a child grant for her [granddaughter] because her mother left with all her documents,” said Flepu, adding that they rely on her husband’s pension money.

Daniso said they filled out application forms at the scholar transport offices. “Hopefully they will consider our application,” she said.

The department is planning to close 136 unviable small schools by the end of this year and move pupils to bigger institutions nearby.

Education spokesman Malibongwe Mtima said they would follow up on the matter today. — arethal@dispatch.co.za

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