School crisis looms

ROB KNOWLES

STATION Hill parents are up in arms over being unable to enrol at their children at Port Alfred Primere Skool after about 100 parents from Nemato camped overnight at the school grounds to be first in line.

Tempers flared at a meeting about the situation at the Station Hill Community Centre last Wednesday, with about three dozen angry mothers expressing outrage.

Some mothers claimed they had been on the Station Hill school’s “waiting list” for two years but that, when it came time to enrol they were told all the places had been taken.

“That’s because parents from Nemato waited all night to be first in the queue on Monday morning (October 8),” said mother Olivia Peters.

“Some arrived at 11pm on Sunday to take their places in line. But it’s an Afrikaans medium school, and most kids in Nemato do not speak Afrikaans,” she said.

“They say Station Hill mothers use money to buy booze first and pay for school fees second. That is not true. We just believe that children from Station Hill should get priority at the only Station Hill school. There are a number of schools in the township for children but in Station Hill we only have one. Where do our children go if they can’t get into school here?”

Ward 6 councillor Marilyn Tarentaal was meant to address the concerned parents after attending a meeting in Grahamstown with education department officials to get clarity on the matter.

But by 6pm Tarentaal had still not arrived. So Ward 6 committee member Booitjie Nelson, who also attended the Grahamstown meeting, stepped into the breach to address the angry mothers.

“We have spoken to Mrs Mxotwa at the department and she agrees with us,” said Nelson to the delight of the mothers present. “But she has told us this matter must be taken up with Bhisho education department.”

On Friday the mothers met again, this time at the school, to express their anger to deputy principal Gary Forbes who explained the school’s position.

“We have only a limited number of places at the school, and these were allocated on a first come, first served basis. We do not discriminate, and simply allocated places to those children whose parents had been present on the Monday morning,” he told the mothers.

Forbes said Bhisho had already committed to sending two prefabricated classrooms from Durban to be used at the school. The letter from the provincial education department was signed on March 17 this year.

“The commitment was to deliver in 2013, but we are now going to ask for them to be delivered this year. I am asking the parents to be calm as this situation will resolve itself. Station Hill children will be prioritised once the classrooms arrive, and I am asking them to sign onto a waiting list in the meantime so we can get an idea of the number of children that needs places,” he said.

However, mothers were still upset and said that placing their names on waiting lists had not been any use in the past.

“We want application forms, not to be put on another waiting list,” said Peters. “And we are going to stay here until we are shown some respect.”

Another mother, Carmen Diedricks(correct), said the entire selection process was unfair.

“Our children must go to school,” she said.

Sherika(correct) Scheepers was also angry her children could not enrol at the school.

Chairman of the school governing body (SGB) Ntombi Golliath(correct), a Station Hill resident, was shocked when she attended Wednesday evening’s meeting.

“I only learned of the problem in passing. I don’t know why the school has an SGB as we should have been informed of the situation,” she said. “I want to help to resolve it.”

Forbes said he was organising a meeting with the department in Bhisho this week to discuss the matter directly. Either Nelson or Tarentaal will accompany him. Golliath said she would also like to attend.

Provincial education spokesman Malibongwe Mtima was unable to provide a comment by the time of going to press.

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