Situation reportedly calm but tense as Northern Areas schools are shut down
The situation in Port Elizabeth's Northern Areas was reportedly calm but tense on Monday morning as children trickled to school while public order police and other emergency personnel maintained a heavy presence in the area. On Thursday, parents agreed to shut down 52 schools in the area due to ongoing teacher shortages and other education-related problems.
The Northern Areas Education Forum (NAEF), which represents parents and SGBs from the area and is leading the protest, is hoping that by shutting down the schools, they can force the Eastern Cape Department of Education to urgently address their grievances.
Apparently, there have also been calls to occupy the offices of the Eastern Cape Department of Education until those demands are met.
Understandably, there is a meeting on Monday evening at Sanctor High, Gelvandale, for feedback on the shut down implemented today and the way forward.
Last year, in July, a similar shut down 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, Eastern Cape Education MEC Mandla 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.
Meanwhile, political parties in the Nelson Mandela Bay have called on the parents and NAEF to call off the schools shut down as they say preventing children from learning is not the best to air their grievances.
Image: Public order police in Gelvandale during the school closures in the Northern Areas in July 2015.
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