'Do they want a child to drown in one of those pit toilets?'
Parents locked out the principal and teachers at Bhekabantu Primary School in Tafuleni, Pietermaritzburg, on Tuesday.
Demanding that the principal be fired, the parents claim that the school's toilets are dangerous and that nothing has been done to improve them.
Gates were locked and learners did not attend class. Parents also barricaded the road leading to the school. Broken bottles were thrown on the road.
Parent Nhlanhlo Mbatha said they have raised several problems with principal Mlindelwa Duma but he has ignored them.
“Do they want a child to drown in one of those pit toilets? Toilets for boys and girls are not covered. They have holes. Some of them are full. They smell and they are dangerous. My child does not use the school toilet. She says she is scared,” said Mbatha.
Five of the boys’ pit toilets have no doors and are close to the road.
“The principal doesn’t respect parents. He never listens. We want him out of the school today,” said Mbatha.
She said another problem is that the school is not properly fenced. “The learners have to chase out cows, goats and horses during learning sessions,” added Mbatha.
During the protest, parents demanded that Duma come and address them. He came, accompanied by an education department official from the Vulindlela circuit - but did not speak to the parents. Police escorted him from the school premises.
“He must not come back here tomorrow,” said Slindile Gwala.
“Grade R learners no longer use the toilets. They use buckets to relieve themselves. Those buckets stay inside their classes. How can one study while there is a bucket full of waste? Our children are not animals,” said Gwala.
Parents also complained about the suspension of learners, sometimes for weeks.
Dumisile Hlongwa said her son had been suspended for breaking windows by throwing stones. “My son was chasing out goats that were inside the school. He was suspended from the school for two weeks,” said Hlongwa.
She said her son returned to school after she paid for new windows and replaced them herself.
Duma refused to comment, telling GroundUp to contact department spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi, who said the department would look into the parents’ complaints.
“We understand the parents are frustrated,” said Mahlambi - but he urged parents not to disturb learning.
Originally published by GroundUp.