Troubled Dunoon school starts new year without a hitch

2016-01-13 14:15

Cape Town - The school year started without a hitch at Sophakama Primary School in Dunoon on Monday, after last year's sit-in at its old prefabricated classrooms by parents demanding places for their children.

Last year, protesting parents set up their own school in the vacated prefabs, claiming their children had been turned away from the massive new school which rises out of the shacks and ramshackle houses.

On Wednesday, about 10 parents and relatives sat patiently in the lobby while school staff calmly helped with last-minute applications.

"I moved from another area," said one of the men waiting to register.

Some had their children with them, already wearing the school's uniform.

To get to the spotless school, the children have to thread their way around discarded alcohol bottles, crisp packets and dead rats. The islands on traffic circles are dumping grounds for bags of moldering trash, and dogs wander the alleys between houses.

With little space for cars in Tandabantu Street, most of the children and their parents arrived on foot, many wearing well-worn hand-me-downs. 

A small boy wearing scrubbed blue canvas takkies too big for him, no socks, and pants too short for him, held his mother's hand tightly as she led him to the school, which is about 20km from Cape Town's CBD.

Almost an hour after the bell rang, pupils and adults were still strolling on to the grounds, high school girls with skirts taken up to be super-short, wandered to the spaza shops.

A vendor did a steady trade on the pavement outside the primary school, with nobody in the huge security office telling the pupils to go back inside. Huddles of mothers discussing the prices of school things kept an eye on them.

The school has been selected for a focus on Mathematics and Science and, after last year's furore, the Western Cape education department has helped find places for pupils who had not been able to find one. It found that many had moved into the area from the Eastern Cape, notorious for its poor overall education system.  

A few kilometers away, at the equally in-demand Table View Primary school, the class of 2016 streamed past a row of prefects there to help first timers. 

Its sports field was filled with cars as parents helped carry enormous Walton's stationery packs containing hundreds of rands worth of school necessities.

The parallel medium English and Afrikaans school with a view of Table Mountain has capacity for around 1 400 pupils and is a popular choice, with pupils even bussing in from surrounding areas via the MyCiti route.

There were few tears from the Grade 1s dwarfed by their enormous bags, with parents just making last minute checks for pick-up times, then heading off to work.

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