Olifantshoek pupils will repeat in 2013

2012-11-24 12:26

Every weekday morning, a small group of women in Diepkloof, Olifantshoek, arm themselves with pangas, axes, pick handles and sjamboks.

Then they walk their children to school.

The children, neatly dressed in their black and white uniforms, spend the day in their classrooms – but there are no teachers. The people who are meant to teach them are too scared to come to school.

Still, the women say, this is better than having their children spend the day just sitting around at home, watching TV or playing in the streets.

It’s been nearly six months since residents protesting against Olifantshoek mayor Maria Diniza shut down two primary schools and one high school.

The protests mean that 2012 has been a wasted year for the children of Olifantshoek: the education department in the Northern Cape told City Press this week they will not sit for their final exams and will all have to repeat the academic year in 2013.

The National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa in the Northern Cape and Free State said only 27 of Olifantshoek’s matriculants, who attended a matric camp in Keimoes, have written their final exams.

This means matrics are among those who will be forced to repeat their grade in 2013.

Amid a climate of fear and disappointment, the women of Diepkloof continue their daily walk to Maikaelelo Primary School, escorting their children to empty classrooms.

Mercy Mess (44) said they were angry and determined to protect their children and had reopened two classrooms at the school.
The women patrol the school grounds while their children sit in the classrooms.

Mess said the rest of the residents who initially closed the schools now called the group the “pick handle moms”.

The schools were closed down by protesters who accused Diniza of non-delivery and corruption and demanded that she resign.

“We gave the protesters five months and nothing happened. Diniza did not resign, but instead it had a negative impact on the future of our kids,” said Mess.

She said some teachers were keen to help when mothers decided to reopen the school, but after one of them was intimidated in her classroom, they all decided to stay away.

“We chased the guy who threatened her with our weapons and some of the equipment we used to clean the school grounds, but he got away.”

Near the primary school this week, Kadimo Mokomele was sitting in the shade next to her house, sheltered from the scorching sun.

“I wish I could take a picture of my crying daughter and send it to the Northern Cape government and the protesters. They must tell me if they know what they are doing. She cried because everything she dreamt about was just a mess,” Mokomele said.

Her 16-year-old daughter, Vanessa, a Grade 11 pupil, was looking forward to her matric year.

“I was looking forward to filling in my application form to study at Stellenbosch University.

“I thought this was going to over soon and stayed home because we were scared to go to school,” Vanessa said.

She’s keeping herself busy by plaiting people’s hair for a small fee and watching television.

Education department spokesperson Sydney Stander said 24 matrics from Olifantshoek had not written exams at all.

He said John Taolo Gaetsewe, which stretches from Olifantshoek to Kuruman, was already Northern Cape’s most poorly performing district.

“It is expected that the situation will have a negative impact on the matric results, but the department is confident that the target of a 75% pass rate is still possible,” said Stander.

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