Learners march over sanitation

2016-11-03 06:00
 High school students march down Observatory Main Road demanding better sanitation in schools.  PHOTO: Ashraf Hendricks

High school students march down Observatory Main Road demanding better sanitation in schools. PHOTO: Ashraf Hendricks

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High school learners brought Observatory traffic to a grinding as they held a protest demanding better sanitation and safety in their respective schools.

They were from Oaklands, Thandokhulu, Khanyisa and Walmer High Schools. They were supported by equal education.

They blocked the main road, preventing cars and taxis from passing. Numerous police and traffic officers were on the scene.

Axole Nziweni, a grade 10 pupil from Thandokhulu said that they are protesting because Premier Helen Zille and MEC for Education Debbie Schaffer have not responded to the outcomes of a social audit the organisation had submitted.

“We want sanitation and security in our schools, we are not safe at the moment,” said Nziweni.

Equal Education undertook a social audit on safety and sanitation and handed an official report to Debbie Schafer, provincial deputy police commissioner Thembekile Patekile and Social Development MEC Albert Fritz. They have tried several times since April to engage with the MEC, but say they have encountered resistance.

“We then asked them to attend a public meeting to respond to the social audit but none of them was willing to attend. Learners feel that Schafer is ignoring and disrespecting them by refusing to engage with them. Members of the Executive Council should remember they are public servants,” said Leanne Jansen-Thomas, Head of Policy and Training at Equal Education.

Some of the grievances are that learners are unsafe on their way to schools. Western Cape schools lack toilet paper and soap. Sexual harassment and rape are happening at schools and that only one in four schools have sanitation infrastructure for learners that are disabled.

According to Equal Education member Sibongile Maseko five protests were happening in five different areas simultaneously including Khayelithsha, Strand, Kraaifontein and Langa.

The protest then made its way to Thandokhulu Secondary School where Lance Abrahams, the Chief Education Specialist of the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) met with students. Abrahams said that he was only there to listen and take back what was asked. Jessica Shelver said that Equal Education could expect a response from the WCED soon.

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