School’s out for Limpopo pupils

Johannesburg – Parents of pupils in the Bolobedu village in Limpopo are frustrated that a “perfectly functioning local school” – Manokwe Secondary School – was shut down just before the Covid-19 lockdown started last year.

Most of the children were moved to two different schools, one more than 7km away and the other over 20km away. With most of the community members unemployed and some earning below the bread line, they cannot afford transport for their children to get to the new schools safely.

Sylvia Makelaote is at her wits’ end, as her 25-year-old son now permanently sits at home. She said he was moved to Magoletsa Secondary School but was often teased because of his age and for “being slow” at the new school.

She said there was also a major problem with meals at this new school not being available and neither is transport.

“We don’t want our children there. It is too far. It rains here a lot and the kids must walk in the mud and get up very early. When they do get to school, there is no food. “Our girls have complained about being harassed at the school, as well as on their way to school. It is not safe.

“Other kids were moved to a school in Kgapane, which is more than 20km from where we stay,” said Makelaote.

She said together with other community members they were told that the Manokwe Secondary School needed to have 200 pupils to remain open.

They went door to door urging other parents to send their children to the school, and they managed to have a headcount of 170 children.

But the school suddenly closed despite their efforts.

“My child decided to stay at home as did many of the other children in the community. It is unfair. We have a school right here, why must we be inconvenienced like this?”

Another community member, Nkele Selowa, said it will not be long until her daughter needs to attend high school and she would prefer the one in the area. She also said that she must watch over her neighbours, who are two orphaned children.

“The elder one gets a grant of R450. How is he supposed to spread the money for the entire month and still worry about how to get to school and having nothing to eat when he gets there?” She said before the lockdown, they were told the school would close and parents must move their kids to Magoletsa Secondary.

“Covid happened and parents didn’t have much time to prepare. Many are not educated and signed forms they didn’t understand for the children to be moved. We’ve been to the district with no satisfactory answers. They are not concerned with the struggles our children have to face,” said Selowa.

The principal of Manokwe Secondary directed all enquiries to the Limpopo department of education.

The department’s spokesperson, Tidimalo Chuene, said the school was closed because of low enrolment numbers.

“The department’s mandate is to ensure that it invests in the education of our children to afford them the opportunity to excel in their future. But this is not always possible if learner enrolment in schools is below the threshold of 135 for primary and 200 for secondary schools.

“This, therefore, demands of us to consider rationalisation of schools with a view to ensure the optimal utilisation of the limited resources,” she said. She sa id that on January 15 last year, the Mopani East district governance officials had a meeting with parents at the school.

“At that point, enrolment was as follows: Grade 8: nine learners, Grade 9: five learners, Grade 10: 10 learners.” Chuene added that the schools that accepted Manokwe pupi ls will apply for transport.

“I can confirm that we have received an application from Magoletsa High School for 56 learners. This has been approved and procurement processes for a bus are under way.

“The same principle applies to the national school nutrition programme.”

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