Strike, H1N1 keep pupils at bay
Up to 50 000 children a day absent from class
A CRIPPLING combination of the train workers’ strike and Novel Influenza (H1N1) fears hammered Western Cape education this week, with up to 50 000 pupils a day absent and thousands more turning up for school late.
Some high school principals feared matriculants would not be prepared for the preliminary or “mock” exams. Some of the preliminary exams are scheduled to begin next week.
The Wester n Cape was worst hit by the strike, which was called off by unions at a conference yesterday.
For the past week, schools whose children relied heavily on public transport complained that hundreds of pupils had either been late or absent, resulting in the loss of precious teaching time.
Trafalgar High School principal Nadeem Hendricks said that of the 800 children at his school, only about 300 pitched up on Monday and Tuesday, when the Metrorail strike was at its worst.
Hendricks said: “Eighty percent of my pupils use the train, so you can imagine how badly this has impacted on the school.
“I had to spend most of Monday on the phone begging parents, especially those who had grade 12s, to let their children come to school.”
“First it was swine flu (H1N1), then it was taxis, now it’s the train strike.”
Sea Point High School principal Carder Tregonning said that almost a third of the 396 pupils at his school were absent on Tuesday. A further 60 to 70 pupils came late, which was “unheard of ” at Sea Point.
Tregonning was also concerned about a possible taxi strike from September 1, which might hamper the mock exams.
Principal of Spine Road High School in Mitchell’s Plain, Riyadh Najaar, said that about 170 of his 1 200 pupils were absent on Monday.
Bernard Hlongwane, princi- pal of Bulumko Secondary School in Khayelitsha, said most of his pupils had found a way to get to school – but about a quarter of the 1 600 pupils were about an hour late.
Principal of Cape Town High School, Rochele Ferreira, said there had been an 80 percent attendance, which was impressive under the circumstances, but that many kids had come late.
At Westridge High School, also in Mitchells Plain, about 180 of 850 pupils did not turn up on the worst days. And, an average of nine matriculants a class (there are five classes) had been absent, said principal Barbara Najaar.
Matthi Theron, the provincial director of specialised education support services, said about 50 000 pupils had been absent during the peak of the strike this week.
Yesterday, Cosatu and the Federation of Unions of SA – an affiliate of the United Transport and Allied Trade Union – announced that they had called off the strike. “This strike has shown us as the trade union movement that we need to communicate with the broader community timeously, so they are able to make alternative transport arrangements.”
However, a settlement has not been reached and negotiations continue.
NO JOY: Commuters at Bonteheuwel abandon efforts to board the few, crammed trains this week.