Schools still shut

2012-09-08 16:48

Parents refuse to end protests.

More than 40 schools in Northern Cape are still closed.

Schooling in the John Taolo Gaetsewe District, which includes Kuruman and Olifantshoek, has been halted for two months as residents ramp up a service-delivery protest.

In June, parents from Kuruman and surrounding villages resolved to keep their children out of school to force regional leaders to meet their demands.

They want tarred roads to replace the existing gravel tracks that lead to and from their homes.

As part of the ongoing protest, three schools have been burnt down.

At one stage, 65 schools were affected by the protests.

Although some schooling has returned to normal, even a visit by Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa could not open the doors to 40 of the schools.

Mthethwa visited the province on Monday.

Mthethwa’s spokesperson Zweli Mnisi said the minister intended to engage with residents, and to ask them to refrain from violence and vandalising buildings.

Mnisi said a task team, which includes residents, has been formed to address people’s concerns and convince residents to allow their children to return to school.

But in Olifantshoek, residents say they won’t budge on their demands and are still insisting that mayor Maria Diniza must resign.

Diniza says she won’t step down unless the ANC asks her to.

Tensions remain high in the town: on Wednesday, when the ANC’s centenary flame passed through Olifantshoek, residents blockaded roads and even stoned two houses.

According to one resident, Thabang Mienies, people were angry. He said: “The flame was taken to the houses of certain people, some of whom were not even part of the struggle.”

Carmen Klaaste, who has two children at primary school, said residents were not willing to stop their protests.

“If the mayor resigns, even if it happens at midnight, we will send the children back (to school),” Klaaste said.

She said she did not want her children to fail, but residents felt they had been left with no option.

Next week it’s Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga’s turn to visit Northern Cape.

Her spokesperson Panyaza Lesufi said she would arrive in the province on Tuesday and visit hotspots in the district until Thursday.

Meanwhile, President Jacob Zuma was also thinking about education in Northern Cape this week – although not the current crisis.

Zuma delivered an ANC centenary lecture on former party leader Albert Luthuli in Kimberley on Friday. He did not mention the current crisis, although he spoke extensively about the role of education in Luthuli’s life.

Zuma, who had been expected by those in the audience to address the situation in Kuruman, instead focused on two themes: Marikana and Luthuli’s qualities as a leader.

Speaking about Marikana, Zuma urged politicians not to “hijack” the labour dispute for their own ends. He said: “We do not need incitement and inflammatory talk at this stage. It is not good for Marikana and is not good for our country.”

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