Afrikaans-speaking parents threaten to close Eastern Cape school

Port Elizabeth – About 80 disgruntled parents, pupils and community members attempted to close Sandisulwazi Secondary School in Paterson, in the Eastern Cape, on Monday.

The protesters are demanding a teacher to teach Afrikaans as a subject, according to a GroundUp report.

Sandisulwazi has nine teachers, eight of whom are Xhosa-speaking and one who is English-speaking. There are 303 pupils at the school, 65 of whom are Afrikaans-speaking.

Police arrived on Monday and the principal locked the gates to keep the protesters outside of the school grounds.

Peaceful protest

The protest was peaceful with demonstrators singing and waving placards.

Isaac van Louw, a member of the School Governing Board (SGB), said: “There is no Afrikaans teacher since last May. We have held talks with the Department of Education on six occasions. Sadly, the talks have yielded nothing. It’s only promises and promises.”

He said parents were going “to close the school so as to create an equal playing field for all [pupils]”.

SGB chairperson Alfred Salters said Afrikaans-speaking pupils who wrote matric last year had failed because there had been no Afrikaans teacher.

“We had a total of 121 Afrikaans-speaking children attending the school last year, but at present we are left with 65”.

Salters said people had sent their children to schools in Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage, but many parents could not afford the boarding fees at those schools.

‘Former principal must return’

Irene Billet, a parent, said: “We want the former principal back because he doubled as an Afrikaans teacher. Since he left last May, the school has been dogged by mismanagement and victimisation of the Afrikaans-speaking [pupils].”

Grade 12 pupils Aloma Gouza said: “We are only four Afrikaans-speaking [pupils] in my grade. We sit in an empty classroom when it is time for Afrikaans lesson. Our education system demands that [pupils] have to pass their mother tongue language in order to proceed. I don’t see this happening.”

Ridley Cupino, who is repeating Grade 11 after he failed Afrikaans, said: “I am very angry … It is discouraging that the conditions that made me fail last year are still the same … We play rugby when it’s time for Afrikaans lessons.”

Dept aware of the situation

Eastern Cape Department of Education spokesperson Mali Mtima said the department was aware of the situation.

“We are talking with some retired [teachers] to come out of retirement and assist us. We had the same problem with Sotho and Agriculture, but it was solved.

“We have students who are training in the Afrikaans language at colleges but they are not yet qualified to teach,” said Mtima.

“We are not giving parents and [pupils] at Sandisulwazi school a timeline, but we are hoping the problem will be resolved. We are also appealing to parents not to close the school.”