Northern Areas schools shutdown enters fifth day

JANUARY 22, 2016

The ongoing shutdown of schools in Port Elizabeth's Northern Areas entered its fifth day on Friday. On Thursday last week, parents, led by the Northern Areas Education Forum (NAEF), which represents parents and SGBs from the area, agreed to shut down 52 local schools in protests over unresolved teacher shortages and other education-related problems.

On Monday, the situation was reportedly calm but tense as children trickled to a few schools that did not close while public order police and other emergency personnel maintained a heavy presence in the area. 

There were also calls to occupy the offices of the Eastern Cape Department of Education until their demands are met.

A meeting was held on Monday evening at Sanctor High, in Gelvandale, which agreed to push forward with the protest until Wednesday, when another meeting would be held to review the protest.

On Tuesday, the Eastern Cape Education Department appealed to qualified educators to apply for employment to fill the 1 665 level 1 vacant posts in its 23 education districts - including Port Elizabeth. Read more on this, click HERE.

That same day, NAEF representatives were scheduled to meet with representatives from the Eastern Cape Department of Education over their grievances.

Nothing tangible came out of the meeting as on Wednesday night, parents agreed again to continue with the schools shutdown until Monday next week when they will meet again to re-evaluate the situation.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, the Democratic Alliance (DA) in the Nelson Mandela Bay accused Eastern Cape Education MEC, Mandla Makupula, of “providing lip service” instead of taking action regarding the closure of the schools. Read more on this, click HERE.

Again on Wednesday, African National Congress (ANC) Member of the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature (MPL), Christian Martin, laid charges against the Eastern Cape Department of Education in connection with the school closures. Read more on this, click HERE.

Calls from political parties to the parents that they open the schools while their grievances are being looked into have fallen on deaf ears. Some parents have also taken to social media saying that the school closures were not the solution and would only affect their children - taking into consideration how the pass mark dropped by about 20% in the area in 2015.

Last year, in July, a similar shutdown called on by the NAEF, turned violent and police had to disperse protesters, who were barricading roads, with teargas, rubber bullets, stun grenades and by water cannon.

In the end, local learners missed school for almost two weeks.

Addressing the media following a meeting to quell the protests, MEC Makapula said that his department was working to address the shortage of teachers. 

"This year, Port Elizabeth has been in the news due to a shortage of educators emanating from natural attrition and resignations, including promotions," he said. 

"We had initially given this district 173 post to address this and 124 were filled. In addition, in May this year we gave the district 122 posts to fill all other vacant posts, following an audit on the shortage of teachers."

He said the shortages were for Afrikaans-speaking teachers in Maths, Science and the Foundation Phase. 

"In most of the schools in the northern area, the language of instruction is Afrikaans," he said. 

"Out of 122 posts, only 55 were appointed as of last week and schools are still submitting [their numbers]. Numbers might have changed as I am sitting here."

He said the problem of non-payment of teachers was being addressed. 

"All teachers who have done their work must be paid." 

Makapula said the department identified 213 teachers that were not paid. Of that figure, 177 would be paid by August 8. 

The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality also announced that it had allocated R6.4 million to hire 330 caretakers, secretaries and security guards that the schools lacked.

Related: 

DISCONTENT BREWING IN PORT ELIZABETH'S NORTHERN AREAS OVER 'FAILED PROMISES'

NORTHERN AREAS PARENTS THREATEN TO PREVENT CHILDREN FROM WRITING 2015 MATRIC EXAMS

“EDUCATION DEPARTMENT HAS FAILED NORTHERN AREA COMMUNITIES” - TROLLIP

 SACP CLAIMS DA IS EXPLOITING NORTHERN AREAS PROTESTS FOR 'CHEAP POLITICKING'

Image: Public order police in Gelvandale during the school closures in the Northern Areas in July 2015.