Eight Colleen Glen Primary School teachers were held hostage for more than seven hours when angry parents locked them inside a classroom as the fight for scholar transport intensified.
The move was triggered when more than 250 schoolchildren living in the Kuyga area, but attending school in Colleen Glen, were stranded without vehicles to transport them to school yesterday morning.
When a Herald team arrived at the school, the parents opened the gates and took them to the teachers, who spoke through an open window.
Colleen Glen Primary School principal Nompiliso Makunga said the teachers – seven women and one man – had been locked in by the group since 8am.
“We are very hungry. Some people are diabetic. Can someone at least provide water for us to drink?” she pleaded.
The irate parents are at loggerheads with the Department of Education after the department allegedly broke its promise to provide scholar transport.
The parents protested on at least two occasions earlier this year, but their pleas fell on deaf ears.
Estelle Williams, 32, said parents were tired of empty promises by the department and they needed to do something to show that they meant business this time around.
“We feel that we, and our children, have been let down by the department,” she said.
“It has been months now and each time they meet with us, they simply promise.
“Children who live far keep on missing out on classes because of this.
“So today we decided to lock them [teachers] inside to send a message to their employer.”
Nomathamsanqa Mfengu, 40, said the scholar transport problem has been ongoing since last year.
Last week, she said, parents met officials from the department who made an undertaking that the transport would be available today (Monday), but this did not materialise.
“This issue has been very difficult for both parents and the children who are unable to get to school,” Mfengu said.
A Grade 5 pupil said when they arrived at the school, they found the classrooms locked.
“We are not prepared to attend classes without our friends,” the pupil said. “They are unable to attend school because there is no transport for them.
“We are concerned because the June exams are just around the corner but the department cannot provide transport for them.”
Provincial education spokesman Malibongwe Mtima said the teachers had been released in the afternoon and the department was looking into ways to solve concerns raised by parents.
“The MEC sent a task team which found that Port Elizabeth is a fast-growing area,” he said.
“The team recommended that the department build two schools, a primary school and high school, in the area to alleviate the pressure.”
A meeting between parents and the department has been scheduled for tomorrow.