Price of protest: Dreams dashed for tarred roads

2014-09-28 15:00

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From Grade R to matric, 17?000 pupils will have to repeat their academic years. Sipho Masondo explores the price of protest

Mofenyi Lechuti (18) is standing in his empty classroom at the Dibotswa Secondary School in Dithakong. He is trying to understand how his life was put on hold without his permission.

Lechuti was preparing to apply to the University of Cape Town, a world away from his home in Kuruman in the Northern Cape. He wanted to study law. But then came the Joe Morolong Road Forum.

“They just arrived and threw us out of classes, saying there would be no school until the government built roads. We thought they were joking.

“But they weren’t. They threatened us with fire and brimstone should we continue our classes.

“They should have asked us if we wanted to be in school or not,” says Lechuti.

“I wanted to study next year, but clearly I won’t. I couldn’t apply at UCT because they need your midyear results for admissions, but we didn’t do the June exams.”

Lechuti will be back in this same classroom next year. Pupils at the 55 schools the roads forum shut down in June were meant to return to class on Monday after a deal was brokered between residents and the government.

But there were very few pupils at Dibotswa when City Press visited on Friday.

Principal Mpho Malele said it could be because pupils were told they would have to repeat their grades next year.

“I think they feel there is no point in coming to school now,” Malele said.

“The morale is very low. We don’t know if we’re coming or going. On Monday we had 13 pupils, on Tuesday we had 125. You can see we don’t have many pupils today.”

He said they were disillusioned.

“They come to me asking for advice. Many of them are actually considering going to other provinces.”

Malele said a number of his matrics had applied for bursaries to study at universities and technikons next year. It was a waste, he said, and he’s disappointed.

Some in the school community insist the end justified the means.

Lona Mathe, whose child Khumoyame Mokomela is in Grade 6 at Gaaesi Primary in Dithakong, said “all parents” had agreed the schools had to close to show the government they were serious about getting roads.

“It is not a good thing, but we had no choice. We were frustrated. It was not an easy decision to make, to deny our kids education,” Mathe said.

Lechuti is unimpressed. With a last glance around the empty classroom, he says: “It’s a silly idea to sacrifice our education for roads.”

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