Fed-up parents take to the streets

Zandile Mbabela

A MAJOR storm is brewing in Nelson Mandela Bay's northern areas as schools battle with critical teacher shortages in languages, particularly Afrikaans home language, for yet another year.

Fed up parents from Chatty Senior Secondary School in Bloemendal will start a series of protests today against the Education Department, starting with small pickets at key points, including the Sidwell education district office, City Hall and Stanford Road.

The parents want the department to fill the seven vacancies left open after some teachers retired and others left for the Western Cape.

But there are simply not enough Afrikaans teachers in the district to meet the need, with district director Nyathi Ntsiko trying to get them transferred from other areas. The parents are also protesting against a severe shortage of textbooks for grades 8, 9 and 11 in the new CAPS curriculum.

The group, who earlier took their grievances to Ntsiko, said if the department did not provide teachers right away they would take to the streets, as they had two years ago.

The school was nine teachers short – including for matric Afrikaans and geography – but was given two teachers from the existing pool of excess teachers in the district.

The concerned parents, who have formed an action committee to engage the department on the issues, said they were tired of having to beg the department to give them their full staff complement.

Committee spokesman Marius Jantjies said they had met with Ntsiko last Tuesday.

"All our classes are averaging about 50 pupils a class and we have parents volunteering here to watch those classes without teachers just so we can maintain the discipline," he said.

"This is a crisis because it has been allowed to go on for many years and, despite a court order compelling the department to fill posts, it seems there is no hope for an end to it."

In their letter to Ntsiko, which contains their demands for books, teachers and repairs to the vandalised school, they said no effective teaching had taken place since schools reopened.

Parent and committee member Andrew Sauls said they were told to "hang ten" as the department was making temporary teachers permanent to fill vacant posts. "Our fear is that if we wait for that to happen, we would wait forever and the crisis deepens in the meantime," he said.

"Already, overworked teachers and pupils are getting demoralised and parents are getting fed up with this recurring problem. This has been going on for seven years."

Jantjies said: "For seven years we have had to go to the department, arms outstretched, asking 'please Mr So-and-so, can we have teachers'?"

Ntsiko said they were trying to address the shortages experienced at many schools in the northern areas, including Cedarberg Primary and other surrounding schools.

"The difficulty is that Chatty High, like many others in the area with the same problem, is an Afrikaans-medium school and our challenge is that we don't have any more Afrikaans teachers in our pool of excess teachers," he said. "We therefore cannot give them a timeframe because we are still looking for these teachers. We redeployed four teachers to the school so far, but two were turned away because they did not fit the school's profile."