No place for kids, so community starts informal school in Milnerton

2017-01-27 11:32
Children at an informal school in Joe Slovo Park, Milnerton, use chairs to write on. (Mary-Anne Gontsana, GroundUp)

Children at an informal school in Joe Slovo Park, Milnerton, use chairs to write on. (Mary-Anne Gontsana, GroundUp)

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Cape Town - Community leaders and volunteer teachers say they will fight to make sure that a new school they started earlier this month stays open. The school has taken in about 260 learners who could not be placed in the two schools in Joe Slovo Park in Milnerton.

The informal school operates from prefabricated classrooms on Freedom Way that were used by Sinenjongo High School before it moved to another site nearby, GroundUp reports. A community leader who helped start the school, Luthando Lekevana, confirmed that the main aim was to take children who were unplaced and teach them.

"The school that was here has been moved somewhere else and this space was left as is, with the containers. But even though some of the containers have been taken away, we as the community decided to use the ones that were left to start classes for these children," he explained.

"What we've heard is that some of the containers have been put in other schools. But if all these containers are taken, what will happen to this land? There has already been talk among people in the community that they want to build their shacks on this land. So I take my hat off to the community leaders who made sure that instead of this land being invaded, we did something useful," said Lekevana.

But the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) does not recognise the school.

Enrolment fees

Spokesperson Jessica Shelver said the land it was on had been temporarily leased by the WCED from the City of Cape Town to accommodate learners from Sinenjongo High School while completing the new school. But the site had been vacated after the new building was finished.

"The site is not a school and any education that takes place at the site will not formally be recognised. Parents must work with the district officials to ensure that their children are enrolled at nearby schools," said Shelver.

To deal with the problem of unplaced children she said mobile units have been "earmarked" to provide "for any learner of compulsory school-going age at nearby schools".

Shelver also said there were allegations that parents were being asked to pay to enrol children at the informal school, and that "other community structures" had requested that the money be paid back.

She said this led to chaos at a meeting on Tuesday night because "those implicated individuals do not want to pay the money back".

Responding to this, an administrator at the school, Nasiphi Getyengana, said parents who enrolled their children for Grade R were the only ones who had been asked to pay a R100 fee "to help pay the [volunteer] teachers in the three Grade R classes".

Parents of learners in other grades had not been charged.

Situation 'highlights challenges'

The informal school, which has no name, has classes from Grade R to Grade 8, and learners are taught by volunteers.

Classrooms have no desks and learners use chairs that were donated to write on.

Nolubabalo Mkhethwa, who is involved in the day-to-day running of the school, said: "Each class has about 30 learners or fewer. Grade R has three different classes. We currently offer subjects like English, IsiXhosa, Life Skills, Mathematics, Economics and Management Sciences. We don't have textbooks and learners either bring their own stationery or we provide what's been donated to us."

Shelver said the situation at the school "again highlights the challenges that we face when dealing with late registrations. These challenges are made even greater by the concentrated areas into which learners migrate at short notice and the ever-increasing budgetary constraints". 

Read more on:    cape town  |  education

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