On the road to nowhere

2014-09-14 15:00

The decision by the Northern Cape education department to close down schools in Kuruman for the rest of the year is a tragic and regrettable one.

In essence, it means the department is throwing up its hands in despair and giving up on these children.

But the blame for this has to be shared by the Northern Cape government and its failure to provide a proper road for community members despite their protests and its promises, the parents who used their children’s education as a bargaining tool and the education authorities.

In September 2012, Kuruman’s community members, frustrated by the provincial government’s failure to build them a tarred road, started an unfortunate form of protest.

They decided to close the more than 40 schools in the area and prevented teachers from educating the more than 16?000 pupils attending classes from Grade R to Grade 12 until the government had tarred the road.

The protests ended after government agreed to speed up service delivery and come up with the estimated R1.3?billion needed to tar the 100km of road linking villages in the area to the N14 highway. It’s two years later, and government has still not delivered.

In our view, it was a misguided strategy, a crude gamble that entailed holding the education?–?and future?–?of a generation of learners to ransom. No amount of frustration should see parents destroying their children’s future, no matter how legitimate their demands.

The area’s matriculants have been deregistered and will only be able to write their finals as part-time students in February and March next year. This derails their plans for a tertiary education and their lives have been put on hold for a year through no fault of their own. This is wrong.

The decision also has implications for the thousands of children who will enter the education system in January after Grade R. Where will they be accommodated in the overcrowded primary school system?

Action needs to be taken now to meet the community’s demands. Schools must reopen and pupils must be allowed to write their exams.

A solution has to be found to provide catch- up programmes.

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