While hundreds of pupils began their first day of school at the newly rebuilt Everest Primary School in Westbury this week, a run-down school in Noordgesig a few neighbourhoods away is still waiting for government to fulfil its promise to refurbish its dangerously dilapidated structures.
gerously dilapidated structures. Opening the R97 million Everest Primary School, Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said: “We are not opening just an ordinary school. This is a school with child care facilities and laboratories that matches private schools. “This is a school with a properly constituted dining hall so the children don’t have to sit under trees.”
But on their first day of school at Noordgesig Primary School in Soweto, pupils faced cracked walls under asbestos roofs, dirty toilets that don’t flush and prefab classrooms in a state of collapse reminiscent of an abandoned hostel. Broken chairs and desks and litter peppered the ground both inside and outside the school.
The Noordgesig community said these were some of the reasons they would not allow teaching to resume at the school. They have been protesting since Wednesday morning, despite at least 10 adults and one child being injured by rubber bullets during a clash with police that afternoon.
To add insult to injury, parents said the promise of meetings between Lesufi and the community had not happened. Lesufi’s spokesperson Steve Mabona invited parents to a meeting at Klipspruit Primary School, a nearby school with similar issues, on Wednesday, but this meeting was later postponed indefinitely.
The Citizen was still waiting for answers to questions sent to Mabona about the situation. The Noordgesig community also accused government of discriminating against coloured teachers, who they said were not considered for the posts of principal and deputy principal although the school’s pupils are predominantly coloured.
Parents said this led to language problems. They also accused the new principal of being abusive at his previous school in Diepkloof. Protests and a complete shutdown of the school is expected until Lesufi meets with the community. Yesterday police were on alert near the school as picketing resumed, but it was relatively peaceful. Mabona said Lesufi had tried numerous times to set up a meeting with the parents and the community towards the end of the fourth term last year.
But when the MEC postponed a meeting, the group had refused to meet at a later date. Efforts to hold the meeting this year were also thwarted due to the violence at Hoërskool Overvaal on Wednesday, which Lesufi said he was obliged to attend instead.
Regarding the school’s infrastructure, Mabona said progress had been made on the plan to rebuild the school, pending finalisation by the Gauteng department of infrastructure development. Details would be communicated in due course.
However, one parent, Anthony Williams, told The Citizen the community was working with church leaders to find an alternative venue for classes as the school’s structures were no longer safe. –