Pupils at the mercy of parents
In the villages of the Northern Cape, situated in the province’s Joe Morolong Local Municipality, residents have had enough. Two years ago, they shut down their children’s schools for almost four months – an extreme way to get the government’s attention for better services, an end to alleged corruption in the municipality and tarred roads to connect their villages.
Promises were made, the protest ended – and nothing happened. Now 54 of the municipality’s schools are closed again, keeping nearly 16 500 pupils out of their classrooms.
Pupils in the area believe their neighbours are using the only bargaining chip they have in a chronically underdeveloped area – schools and, of course, the pupils who attend them.
A principal told City Press he could not understand why residents would agree to putting their children’s futures at risk by shutting down schools and bringing lessons to a halt. He described the action as playing a dangerous game with the municipality’s matrics, who are less than a month away from their preliminary exams.
But as the cliché goes, desperate times call for desperate measures. The residents of the villages in the Joe Morolong municipality seem to be desperate indeed. The government made a promise two years ago that has not been kept.
This must be dealt with – officials can’t expect residents to trust them or believe that the state genuinely has their best interests at heart if they stand up in public spaces and baldly lie about what they can or can’t, or must or won’t do.
But more worrying than the government’s failure to meet its obligations is the news that protesting residents aren’t content to just close the gates of schools, but have threatened teachers, telling them not to organise study groups or even discuss the curriculum with their pupils. Even pupils who gather in small groups without a teacher, to try to stay on track with their studies, are being intimidated.
How can we expect the children of the Northern Cape to learn, to move on to universities and jobs, and great new opportunities that will help grow South Africa, if they are too scared to even do their homework with their peers?
The residents of Joe Morolong might be desperate, but this is a step too far.