Northern Areas schools shutdown enters second week

JANUARY 25, 2016

The ongoing school shutdown in Port Elizabeth's Northern Areas entered its second week after parents again prevented their children from attending classes on Monday. On Sunday, there was a call for parents to march to the Eastern Cape Department of Education offices in Port Elizabeth, but it did not look as that call was heeded. 

On 14 January, 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.

Last 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.

Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle has reportedly established a Task Team to work with the NAEF to resolve all outstanding issues.