Pupils speak out against roadworks protest

Many schools and clinics have been affected by a strike over a demand for a tarred road by villagers of Ngqeleni. The road leads to Hluleka Nature Reserve.
Many schools and clinics have been affected by a strike over a demand for a tarred road by villagers of Ngqeleni. The road leads to Hluleka Nature Reserve.
Image: Ziyanda Zweni

 “Our parents were fighting for a cause but we have been badly affected.”

These were the words of Dumezweni High School pupil Elihle Magwaza, 21, who set his first foot back in school on Tuesday after a fortnight of community turmoil.

He is one of the 367 Grade 12 pupils from the five high schools among the 35 schools in Ngqeleni affected by the service delivery protests that rocked the area and caused schools and clinics to remain closed.

Residents from 50 villages affected by the gravel road to Hluleka Nature Reserve were demanding that it be tarred.

Magwaza said he and other matrics formed study groups to revise maths and geography during the shutdown.

“Last week, we were taken to Phondolwendlovu High School in Ngqeleni to catch up. It was not the same teaching format we are used to,” said Magwaza.

He said the protests had cost pupils dearly.:

“It’s not the first time we were affected. I think the parents did not consider the impact the strike would have on us.

“I am happy to be going back to class and I’m quite sure that other pupils are happy as well.

“These two weeks were difficult for us, but we have no choice but to catch up and revise strongly in these remaining few days before the exams so that we pass.”

Hluleka Nature Reserve forum chairperson Thembinkosi Gwaji said they’d reconsidered their determination to continue the protest in order to give transport MEC Weziwe Tikana-Gxothiwe a chance.

“We met on Monday afternoon and discussed this. We suspended the protest for the 14 days that the MEC set out for the contractor to be introduced,” said Gwaji.

“If the 14 days pass and the contractor is not brought to us, we will start the protest again, only more harshly.”

He said the past two weeks had been painful for parents as tuition for hundreds of pupils had been affected.

“As parents we are supposed to tend to our children. It was a painful exercise, but that is what drives the government to act. We had to sacrifice our children.”

Education MEC Fundile Gade meanwhile urged parents, community members and faith-based organisations to ensure pupils attended school. “All people must rally behind these pupils to ensure they study free from any interference in preparation for their final examinations,” he said.

“We have called upon the circuit [office] to work with these schools to ensure that all our learners have a clear plan of revision.”


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