Letter from Mt Frere: Schooling grinds to a halt in Eastern Cape

Zukile Majova

Lack of stationery, unpaid assistant teachers and student transport are just some of the reasons that have forced taxi operators and School Governing Bodies (SGB) in some parts of the Eastern Cape to shut down schools.

Public schooling has stopped in the entire Makhanda district, where schools are at loggerheads with the provincial Department of Education, which has failed to deliver stationery to schools for three weeks.

The School Governing Body Forum, which is championing the protest, said thousands of teacher assistants and general school assistants have also not been paid by the government.

“Teaching and general school assistants at Mary Waters High School, NV Cewu Primary, Ntsika High School, George Jacques Primary and DD Siwisa Primary in Makhanda are affected,” the forum said in a statement.

“Teaching and general assistants were not paid for January as no funds were received from the Eastern Cape Department of Education (ECDOE).”

In Good Shepherd Primary, the school received a reduced amount from the Department and partially paid teacher assistants in December. They received no funding for January and were forced to pay assistants from the school’s own funds.

St Mary’s Primary in Makhanda said it has been paying teaching and general assistants from its own funds for November and December. It could only pay 50% of the wages after receiving nothing from the department.

In the Amathole West education district, taxi operators started a school shutdown on Monday saying they are owed money by the government for student transport.

According to the agreement, taxi operators and buses ferry students to and from school every day. The children are often from poor communities and would otherwise walk long distances to school.

A teacher in Keiskammahoek told Scrolla.Africa that teachers go to school to catch up with administration work, as there are no students in attendance.

“It’s been like this all week. Even pupils who can walk to school are afraid of being targeted or attacked,” said the teacher.

“Affected areas include us here in Keiskammahoek, Peddie, Fort Beaufort, Alice, Stetterheim, Adelaide and Cathcart.”