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CityPress - - News - SIPHO MA­SONDO sipho.ma­sondo@city­press.co.za

ll Lerato Mokoena wanted to do was to pass Grade 7 so she could take ad­van­tage of a schol­ar­ship she had been of­fered by one of Gaut­eng’s top pri­vate schools.

But the dreams of the 12-year-old girl, who wants to be a doc­tor one day, are slowly dis­si­pat­ing in the face of the ten­sions that have caused ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cials to tem­po­rar­ily shut down her school.

Lerato was one of about 300 pupils, some as young as seven, who were milling about at 6am on a chilly Wed­nes­day, wait­ing for buses to ferry them to one of eight dif­fer­ent pri­mary schools nearby. She didn’t know which school she was go­ing to.

As the sun rose over David­sonville, scores of neigh­bours stood on the pave­ment to see what was go­ing on.

The chil­dren ran around, su­per­vised by six teach­ers, in­trigued by the banks of tele­vi­sion cam­eras and pho­tog­ra­phers.

Par­ents wait­ing with them wiped their noses as the older chil­dren dis­cussed school­work, soapies and the weather.

One of Lerato’s class­mates, who did not want to be named, said he and his friends felt like the earth was slowly slip­ping away from un­der their feet.

“This is sad. I would have thought these old peo­ple would fight for us to be prop­erly ed­u­cated, but no, they want to close the school. I’m glad this is my last year here.

“Whether I pass or fail, I will not re­turn to this school. My mother is al­ready look­ing for another school for me for next year,” he said.

A few min­utes later, four buses es­corted by po­lice cars pulled up and the chil­dren boarded. Their par­ents said their good­byes, gave them money and sweets, and the chil­dren blew kisses as they were driven off.

Rood­e­poort Pri­mary’s clo­sure capped months of feud­ing over the ap­point­ment of the prin­ci­pal, No­math­emba Molefe, and her two deputies. Coloured par­ents have in­sisted that a coloured prin­ci­pal be ap­pointed. Gaut­eng ed­u­ca­tion MEC Panyaza Le­sufi an­nounced last Fri­day that he would close the school and the chil­dren would be moved else­where while the im­passe was be­ing re­solved.

The mat­ter is now in the hands of a 10-mem­ber ne­go­ti­a­tion team that Le­sufi set up to help. They in­clude Afro-pop star Yvonne Chaka Chaka and for­mer Methodist bishop of Johannesburg Paul Ver­ryn, who were given un­til yesterday morn­ing to sort out the mess.

But this is cold com­fort for Lerato, who is three months be­hind on the syl­labus.

“I will not tell you the name of the school of­fer­ing me the schol­ar­ship. But I have worked so hard for this and it will be a great pity if I fail or do not achieve the marks re­quired for the schol­ar­ship,” she said.

“If I do not make it, those who do not want us to go to school should be held re­spon­si­ble. I don’t even know what is hap­pen­ing at the school. There are so many the­o­ries.”

She said the schol­ar­ship would have been her golden ticket.

“It would have catered for ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing hos­tel fees and food. It will be a sad day if silly fights like these hin­der my dreams. But all hope is not lost. I am study­ing hard and the catch-up pro­gramme that is be­ing put to­gether will prob­a­bly help a lot.”

Rood­e­poort Pri­mary has 1 200 pupils. More than 1 000 of them are African and live in nearby Matholeville. The coloured pupils live mainly in David­sonville.

The two com­mu­ni­ties are sep­a­rated by Main Reef Road.

Of the teach­ing staff, 16 are African and 12 are coloured.

In Matholeville, where Lerato lives, a few par­ents spoke out about the is­sue.

Rose Mahlabe said: “The prob­lem is that they don’t want a black prin­ci­pal and deputies. Maybe they are un­der­min­ing them be­cause they are black.

“They don’t want black kids there be­cause the school is in their area. It is racism and it’s bad be­cause coloured peo­ple are also black. They are not white. I am not happy at all that af­ter so many years, peo­ple are still do­ing these things.” But coloured par­ent Jerome Lot­ter­ing de­nies this. “The is­sue is the ap­point­ment of the prin­ci­pal. It has noth­ing to do with race. Race is­sues were started by the media and politi­cians to serve their own ends. All of us come from dis­ad­van­taged back­grounds,” he said.

Lot­ter­ing in­sisted that there had been bet­ter-qual­i­fied can­di­dates for the prin­ci­pal and deputy po­si­tions than Molefe, but they were over­looked.

“We are not go­ing to al­low cadre de­ploy­ment and the buy­ing of po­si­tions here. If peo­ple less qual­i­fied come, you have to ask your­self how they got the po­si­tions,” he said.

“We are not racists; we are all African. We will ac­cept a black prin­ci­pal, but only if the pro­cesses are fol­lowed prop­erly. We will not al­low mis­man­age­ment.”

PHOTO: FELIX DLANGAMANDLA

Buses drop off learn­ers from Rood­e­poort Pri­mary School at

Lufhereng Pri­mary

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