Pupils turned away at Estcourt Primary

2017-01-13 09:46
Estcourt  Primary School has no space for Grade R and Grade?1 pupils after a suspected arson attack at the school last year. This is all that remains of the classrooms.

Estcourt Primary School has no space for Grade R and Grade?1 pupils after a suspected arson attack at the school last year. This is all that remains of the classrooms. (Supplied)

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The first day of school was chaotic for Estcourt Primary School when angry parents gathered outside the school gates after being turned away due to a lack of classrooms.

Grade R and Grade 1 pupils were turned away from the school on Wednesday because there were no classrooms for them.

This follows an alleged arson attack at the school in August last year that destroyed the classrooms. They are yet to be rebuilt.

Furious parents gathered outside the school’s gate arguing that they wouldn’t be able to find space for their children anywhere else at this time of the year.

“Estcourt detectives and the Forensic Arson Unit are investigating the circumstances around the incident; however, to date no one has been arrested,” said police spokesperson Thembeka Mbhele.

The fire was extinguished with no reported injuries incurred.

On Wednesday when the school reopened, 77 registered Grade R and Grade 1 pupils were sent away.

Parents were told they would be refunded for the registration fee, but they refused to budge, saying it was too late for them to find places in other schools.

One of the parents, Jacquelene Niacken­, said she had recently moved to Estcourt from Johannesburg and was “highly disappointed” by what would become her son’s memory of his first day of school.

“We attended a meeting at the school in December and were informed that there would be classrooms available when the schools reopened, but now they’re sending us away.

“I just wish I had stayed in Johannesburg now because there’s no way I can find a school for my child at this time,” she said.

Estcourt Primary School’s governing body said the Department of Education is to blame for the letdown.

SGB chairperson Haden Smith, who addressed the disgruntled parents, said the school would “try to make a plan” for the displaced pupils. He blamed the department for their ordeal and said as a result the school would only be able to accommodate the pupils if the department delivers.

“After promising all these people, the department has let us down. All they could give us as a reason was that there was a greater need at another school, but what about all the children here at Estcourt?” said Smith.

A follow-up meeting with parents was set up to provide feedback on the way forward.

However, the SGB said it seemed as though their only other alternative would be to find space at another school, Estcourt Secondary.

“There’s a building in Estcourt Secondary that we could use but it still needs a bit of fixing up and transporting the pupils there may also be a problem but everything will be confirmed when parents meet with the SGB again,” said SGB member Sindi Blose.

Efforts to contact the Department of Education yesterday for comment were unsuccessful.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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