The future of the Ilungelo Public School in Kwazakhele in Port Elizabeth remains unclear despite an undertaking given to me by education MEC Mandla Makupula more than two months ago that he would personally investigate the issue.
The school, which is in a decrepit state, is one of the 310 schools gazetted for official closure this year by the Eastern Cape government. However, when I visited the school on 13 May this year, the local community expressed the hope that it would be rebuilt due to the need for a school in the area.
After my visit I contacted the MEC, who said that he would interact with the local ward councillor in order to listen to the views of the community regarding the reopening of the school and for the reasons why parents took the decision to unofficially close of the school. At the time the MEC told me that he would prefer to gather the facts first hand, rather than relying on information from officials.
Ilungelo Public school is an example of the rot in Eastern Cape education behind many of the 310 school closures.
Parents informed the DA they unofficially closed the school three years ago because the principal abused alcohol and teachers did as they pleased. Parents were left with no choice but to send their children to schools in other areas.
The tragic collapse of Ilungelo School should never have happened. I call upon the MEC to make good on the undertaking he gave me two months ago to save this school. I have posed questions for written reply to the MEC to clarify the department’s plans for this school.
The DA understands that unviable schools where learner-numbers have dwindled remain a challenge and that sometimes, in the interest of education, it is better for learners to be relocated to other schools. The DA is in principle not against the closure of old mud schools and farms schools where the infrastructure has become safety and health hazards.
We recognise the need to find better education for learners in certain cases, but there is a big difference between finding better education for learners and running perfectly good schools like Ilungelo into the ground to the extent that they have to be closed.