Giovedì, 11 Febbraio 2016 11:12 | Poor community builds own school to make sure kids get education

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Elliotdale - When the Eastern Cape Department of Educationfailed to provide their children with a school, a group of parents in Gotyibeniin Xhorha took matters into their own hands.

In 1994, Gotyibeni

residents decided they needed a primaryschool for their children. Other primary schools were far from the area andchildren had to wait until the age of nine before they could go to school ontheir own.

Residents of this rural area near Elliotdale applied to thedepartment to start a school and the project was approved. One of the teachersfrom the area, Nolundi Vokwana, now the principal, was employed by thedepartment in 1994 to start the class with 25 pupils in Grade 1.

At the time there were no classrooms and children weretaught in parents’ homes and then in a local church. When in 1995 the schoolgrew to include a grade two class, the community decided to build classrooms.

School governing body member Boniswa Mncono, a mother oftwo, said: “This school was built by the community from scratch. We startedwith two classes, thinking that the department was going to assist us but itnever did. At that time it was stilljust Grade 1.

"We used to donate R50 to buy bricks, then make anotherdonation to buy whatever was needed. We first collected all the material. Zincwas donated by a man in the area. We kept on collecting the money until wemanaged to build these two classrooms,” said Mncono.

The two classrooms are now used as the staff room which isalso combined with Grade R, and another classroom is used for Grades 1 and 2.Only the staff room has electricity.

Mncono said 10 years later a businessman from the area haddonated two classrooms for Grades 3 and 4.

She told GroundUp that last year parents had decided to build another two classrooms afterthey realised that the department was seemingly not willing to help them. Thistime each house donated R100 after a public meeting.

The two classrooms still need plastering and floors but arein use. The school now offers classes from Grade R to Grade 6.

Gotyibeni Primary, a no-fee school, has only three teachers.Each teacher handles two classes and has to teach at least six subjects. At itspeak, between 1990 and 2000, before another primary school was built nearby,the school had 500 pupils, but now thenumber has fallen back to 150.

Children in the school their parents built in Xhorha. (Manqulo Nyakombi, GroundUp)

Mncono said parents had been in and out of the departmentasking for a new building with no luck.

“The department is playing games with us. One year we are ona priority list, next we are removed. There are schools that were started afterus but most of those schools have furniture and they are renovated,” she said.

Parents had bought plastic chairs and desks and hadasked for old furniture from a high school not far from the area.

“When we went to the department of education to ask for aschool they told us they were going to build us toilets and to us that was justan insult. We built this school, now we are maintaining it, trying to cover allthe cracks. The department of education does not care about us,” she said.

Grade 4 learner Awona Siwu showed GroundUp his broken chair.Before sitting down he had to put his bag on the chair to cover the hole, hesaid. Several of the desks are also broken.

“They were like this when we got them from the high school.At least they gave us desks. We used to sit on bricks and put our books down inorder to write,” he said.

Some of the windows are also broken.

“I wish you were here in winter when it’s cold. You wouldsee us when we are sick,” he said.

He said he wished they had proper classes with electricity.

- At the time of publication the department had not respondedto a request for comment. Comment from the department will be added when it isreceived.

- See the full article here.

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