Calm start to the school year for most EC pupils
For the most part it was smooth sailing as schools reopened in the Eastern Cape on Wednesday, with textbooks and stationery having been effectively rolled out by the provincial education department.
At some schools, however, serious issues were raised over scholar transport and infrastructure.
Provincial education heads visited schools in 12 districts to arses school readiness.
Chairperson of Bhisho's portfolio committee on education Mpumelelo Saziwa said: “We have not yet picked up any major problems on the first day, but by Friday we will have a clearer picture on what is happening across the province.”
The education department is working with others in the provincial government to curb school vandalism arising from community protests.
Saziwa said. “We want to make sure that whatever happens in communities does not spill onto school grounds. We are also working with faith-based organisations to achieve this.
He said 95% of schools had received their workbooks, textbooks and stationery in December.
Problems were experienced in some parts of the province, however.
Hundreds of pupils from Ententeni, Orange Grove and Bhongweni were left stranded as their scholar transport did not arrive to take them to their various schools.
Pupils as young as five had to walk for 30 minutes to make sure they attended their first day of school, while some decided to return home.
At one pickup point in Bombweni village, first-time pupils had arrived shortly after 6am to catch transport which never arrived.
The Dispatch saw groups of children walking to school or waiting patiently at pickup points.
Nontsikelelo Maqondose was part of a group of parents who walked more than an hour to get their children to Fort Grey Primary School safely.
“I walked my three grandchildren to the pickup point just before 7am. We stayed there for than an hour waiting,” she said.
When they eventually reached the school, they were told there was no scholar transport available.
“On our arrival, one of the teachers told us that government had suspended scholar transport from our area to our school. I do not see myself doing this every day,” she said.
Maqondose said she could not allow her three grandchildren to go to the local school in her area.
“The school is built from corrugated iron and is overcrowded,” she said.
There were also grievances at Mcheni Primary School on the outskirts of Tsolo.
The school's woes emerged before the December exams when parents, pupils and teachers complained of having to hold classes in the burning sun.
A brick-and-mortar school commissioned by the department had collapsed, forcing the parents to build a mud school for their children to learn.
However when the walls of this structure began to crumble, there was no other option but to hold classes outdoors.
The education department promised temporary classrooms would be put in place in the new year.
But while Mcheni school governing body chairperson Mzimeli Yelo confirmed the department was building five temporary classrooms, these were not yet completed.
But he said they were not enough to cater for everyone.
“They promised 10 and now they are saying five. They are not complete yet which means there is a huge chance that some pupils will have to be taught out in the open again this year,” Yelo said.