On Tuesday, about 15 parents from Elliot went to the Eastern Cape Department of Education offices in Ngcobo near Mthatha to demand their village school be reopened. The parents say 36 children are sitting at home and not in school after Mhlwazi Junior Secondary School was closed during a rationalisation of schools in the province. The education department has only provided sporadic transport to the nearest school 40km away.
School governing body deputy chairperson Tatoyi Mponzo told GroundUp that last year in March the department gave notice to close the school as it only had two teachers and less than 40 learners. Mponzo said parents tried to resist the closure but failed.
He said an education official, a Mr Malapa, promised them that the department would provide scholar transport to Ryno Primary, 40km away.
But the provision of transport has been sporadic. This year the scholar transport did not appear at all. Mponzo said the children also missed exams last year, but to the shock of their parents, the children passed anyway.
Mponzo said they contacted the school principal of Ryno to find out what was happening. “We waited for a week until we decided to go to the district office in Ngcobo,” said Mponzo.
They were told to find their own transport for February and March because the department could only provide transport from April.
“This is a poor community, most of us are grandparents raising our grandchildren,” said Mponzo. “I have four children … I’m not working. They are depending on my old age grant.”
A taxi from Mhlwazi to Ryno costs R70 for a round trip per child.
“There is no way that I can afford the transport money to take my grandchildren to school. I can add my old age grant and their child support grant and the money will [still] not be enough,” said Mponzo.
He said the parents have now been to the district offices more than three times, begging the department for transport.
Nolindile Deku said her five children are stuck at home instead of being at school. “This is very sad for us parents. Every day my children ask me the same question – when are they going to go back to school – and I don’t have answers.”
She is unemployed. The family relies on child support grants and her husband’s disability grant.
Deku said if the department cannot provide scholar transport it should reopen the village school.
Another parent, Nokhanyo Sombo, said, “Since January we have been in and out of department offices seeking help but no one is willing to help us. They are not feeling our pain because their children are at school.”
A spokesperson for the Eastern Cape Department of Education, Malibongwe Mtima, said the department would investigate the exam issue. He said parents should have applied for scholar transport last year for this year.
“We will arrange a meeting with parents and explain to them the process of scholar transport. Then, we will do a special appeal for them to be provided transport this year,” he said.
Parents said the need to apply for transport was news to them.
Published originally on GroundUp.