Pupils return amid service delivery protest
THE first day of school endured more than the usual chaos on Wednesday, as a service delivery protest on the R72 and R343 in Kenton-on-Sea was timed for optimum disruption.
Residents reported on Facebook that many pupils and staff members could not get to Kenton Primary School while the road was blockaded with burning tyres and tree branches. School-aged youths were also seen among the protestors from Ekuphumleni township who threw rocks at police.
Other schools reported that staff were late because of the delays on the R72.
Starting at about 4am, residents upset with slow progress on a new RDP housing development in Kenton set tyres and tree limbs alight in the national R72 and the R343, an arterial route to Grahamstown.
Police stopped traffic at Kasouga, turning cars around and suggesting motorist to use an alternate route or wait until the protestors left.
Any cars that did choose to stay risked being pelted by rocks. A former municipal employee has laid a charge of attempted murder with the Kenton police after a rock smashed his rear windscreen.
At around 8am Public Order Police (POP) appeared and, after consultation, fired at buckshot at the stone-throwers, predominantly young people, who fled deeper into the township. Police officers followed them, firing smoke canisters and more buckshot. Some residents complained the police had followed them into their homes and beaten them.
However, within half an hour they were back again, hurling insults at the police who restrained themselves, although they did issue several warnings as the protestors restricted the flow of traffic.
It was mostly business as usual in Port Alfred and Nemato, as thousands of children started the new school year, many for the first time, and many with an air of expectation that 2017 will prove to be a defining one in their lives.
At Nomzamo Secondary School principal Thandile Mkele said the stationery for the new academic year was sent last year, but that the school was still awaiting delivery of the setwork books. About 600 pupils are currently registered at the school, but the numbers will be set by the end of January.
Mtyobo Primary School has already registered 1 020 but the numbers may vary slightly as some pupils are still on holiday with their parents and may only return at the end of January.
Yet principal Mava Booi said the school has not yet received any assistance from the district or provincial education departments for maintenance.
“We are still waiting for our text books,” he said.
Dambuza Primary School principal, Melvyne Fillis, has been at the school for just over a year, and said his initial task was to reignite the enthusiasm that seemed lost when he took the post.
“We [Fillis and his staff] have worked very hard over the holidays to make certain we are all ready for the new academic year,” said Fillis. With 687 registered pupils he is confident for his first full academic year as principal.
Grade 1 teacher at Dambuza Primary School Thembi Mbenga said she was very happy with her class, although the classes are even bigger than last year. “The Grade 1’s are very nice this year. You can see the kids are happy to be here,” she said.
Marianne Wessels, principal of Kenton Primary School, said the school had its own way of resolving the issue of the delivery of materials by the education department.
“We bought all our own textbooks and setwork books, and charge parents a nominal fee for their children to use the books and then return them at the end of the year for reuse.
With 199 pupils enrolled at the school Wessels said she was looking forward to the new academic year.
Alexandria High School principal Raj Karan has 630 pupils enrolled at the school. Her main problem was the lack of teachers, as the school is still several teachers short, although the education department has promised to recruit teachers as a priority.
Port Alfred High School’s primary section was abuzz with laughter as the little ones made new friends and gave their teachers hugs and kisses on the first day back. Principal Melissa Tweedie said that it had been a very good day with very little tears. The primary school is currently filled to capacity but is geared up for the year ahead.
On the Port Alfred High School side, principal Clive Pearson said he was positive and looked forward to the year ahead. Many upgrades have been made in terms of school infrastructure and the numbers have gone up 20 from last year.
Mother Pumza Sixaba took her little girl, Isiphile, to her Grade 1 class after assembly reluctant to walk away. With tears streaming down her face, she dragged herself away from the class; “I’m very emotional, I want to stay here and don’t want to leave,” she said.
In Station Hill, a crowd of desperate parents gathered outside Port Alfred Primêre Skool looking for space for their child. Principal Tommy Scott has been busy since the start of the week trying to accommodate some of the parents but unfortunately the school is full, with numbers up by 71 from last year. Currently the school has 831 pupils.
“We have tried to accommodate parents as best we can, 831 is already a bit high. There are 40 plus pupils on average in each classroom,” said Scott.
Going forward Scott is very excited about the year ahead and has been working throughout the holidays on planning. Of great relief to pupils and parents is that a Grade 10 class was introduced this year.
“Mayor Phindile Faxi has been a pillar of strength in accommodating a Grade 10 class.”
“We are going to strengthen our teaching at our school. There’s public speaking and drama; an art exhibition for foundation phase; our library is celebrating five years and many more things to come,” Scott said.