Vuwani: pleas to resume schooling ignored
Newly acquired mobile classrooms remained unused in Vuwani, with learners entering the seventh week of no schooling tomorrow amid an impasse over borders that were redrawn to establish a new municipality.
More than 2 000 matriculants have already missed out on writing their midyear examinations.
The Limpopo government has made a desperate plea for Vuwani’s protesting communities to allow schooling to resume so that a catch-up plan for lost teaching time can be implemented.
Provincial government spokesperson Phuti Seloba said although resources and plans were in place, including a study camp for matriculants, the province was powerless.
“Our hands are tied. We cannot just take learners on a study camp somewhere in the current situation as it may leave their parents in a compromised position,” he said.
“Teachers have been intimidated, and likewise, we cannot force them to report for duty when they have raised serious safety concerns.
“We are pleading with bleeding hearts to community leaders to take into consideration these children’s future, which is currently at the risk of being delayed by a year.
“We do not want to see any child repeat their grade next year ... We have a chance now to rescue their academic year only if the communities can cooperate with us.”
Seloba said it would not be possible to catch up on lost teaching time over the June holidays or weekends alone. “An intensive catch-up plan is ready, but we cannot move to implement anything in the current hostile environment.”
Following the torching of 24 schools, along with others damaged earlier last month, the province estimated repair costs at R310 million. It has already spent R22.4 million on buying 76 mobile classrooms. With not much hope that a decision to lift the shutdown will be made by the communities, more than 40 000 pupils are facing the prospect of repeating grades next year.
People from a cluster of villages around Vuwani were angered by a court ruling that upheld the municipal demarcation board’s decision to have Vuwani areas incorporated into a new municipality with Malamulele. Protesting communities want to remain in Makhado municipality. Although traditional leaders had taken the matter to the Constitutional Court, it did not seem likely that the moratorium on schools was going to be suspended, pending the outcome.
In a bid to assist learners in his area, traditional leader Chief Livhuwani Matsila has partnered with disaster relief group Gift of the Givers to repair damaged schools and offer classes to matriculants at a community-owned lodge in Matsila village.
Lambasting the decision to shut down schools, he said that although he was also subjected to intimidation for not supporting it, he was undeterred. “No traditional leader will be happy about instability and no schooling ... Some of us are not going to be part of that barbaric practice where people gamble with our children’s future.”
Nsovo Sambo, a community leader in Vyeboom village, disagreed, saying the effect of the lockdown was bigger than just schooling. “We are not using schools to leverage our struggle. We also have pensioners who are unable to collect their grants from their pay points and small businesses are losing out.
“Everyone is getting affected. This is the sacrifice we have agreed on,” he said.
STALLED Mobile classrooms arrive in Vuwani. Nkosi Livhuwani Matsila (inset) is offering lessons in his village