Eastern Cape parents take matters in their own hands and build a school

Classrooms at Dedeni Junior Primary in Lusikisiki

When the Eastern Cape Department of Education failed to provide their children with a school, parents of Dedeni village in Lusikisiki, north of Port St Johns, took matters into their own hands.

When the Eastern Cape Department of Education failed to provide their children with a school, parents of Dedeni village in Lusikisiki, north of Port St Johns, took matters into their own hands.

In 2006 they decided to build their own school. Because most people in the village are not working and some rely on child support and old age grants, they only managed to build mud classrooms.

This was supposed to be a temporary structure but due to government dragging its feet in building more permanent structures, parents ended up building seven classrooms.

These classrooms are in no condition for conducting lessons: windows are broken and the roofs leaf so that when it rains water comes inside the classrooms. Others are falling and they are overcrowded.

As a result, some of the classes are attended under trees, and when it rains children are taken to a church hall. There’s no staff room available to teachers to hold meetings and when they need to mark learners’ work, they set a desk under a tree.

This school start from grade R to grade seven with 223 learners and seven teachers.

The school is not easily accessible and for water, the school relies on rain water from a tank and a nearby dam. There’s only one toilet for use by the teachers. Children relieve themselves in the bushes.

There is no running water and just one toilet

School Governing Body Chairperson, Mzingisi Bomela, said as parents they took a decision to stand up for their children’s future.

He said there was no primary school in the village and the Department of Education expected kids to walk 10 km to the nearest school, passing through bush and even crossing a river.

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Bomela said that because the school was far, children could only start going to school when they had reached 10 years of age or older, when they are able to look after themselves and able to walk the long distance.

He said this caused a high dropout rate and most children ended up not going to school.

“We didn’t want our children to grow up uneducated like us. We had to do something hoping that government was going to support us,” said Bomela, who volunteered to do all the roofing for the classrooms.

“We divided the job. We started with two classrooms in 2006. Men collected the sticks and rocks which we first put in between the stick before we add mud. Women assisted with water to make mud. For roofing we collected R20 from each house. The principal donated from her salary and the ward councillor then also donated R2000 which we used to buy zincs and poles. I did all the roofing,” he said.

Elitsha heard about Dedeni primary school from an NGO called Umanyano Lwabaphulaphu whose coordinator, Modi Maqabaza, shared a photo of the school on social media. Maqabaza said he was there in Dedeni and he saw the school.

“When I saw this school last year I thought it was an abandoned home. I never thought I would see people inside those classrooms. I’m sure you can agree that this is not a place for learning,” said Maqabaza.

He said his NGO tried to intervened informing the Department of Education about the situation at the school.

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“Last year June we were at that school, with officials from the Eastern Cape DoE district offices in Mthatha and they promised to build the school. I also sent email and pictures of the school to the MEC of education Mandla Makupula and to the Premier Phumulo Masualle’s office. Both did not respond to my email,” he said.

A teacher at the school who asked her name not to be used told Elitsha that in 2013 she sent an email to Makupula’s office and an administrator by the name of Mr Duntsula responded and promised them that the school was going to be built.

“We are still waiting,” she said.

Questions sent to the spokesperson of the Eastern Cape Department of Education, Malibongwe Mtima, last week were not answered. He had indicated that he would respond after a meeting with the infrastructure department but he did not!

 

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