PUPILS and teachers from mud and dilapidated schools in the Eastern Cape braved the cold weather yesterday to march to the Department of Education offices in Bhisho to demand the fasttracking of fixing their schools.

The marchers, mainly pupils from Libode and King William’s Town schools, wanted to hand over their petition to Education MEC Mandla Makupula. However, he could not accept it as he had a prior engagement.

Instead, provincial Education spokesperson Loyiso Pulumani accepted it on the MEC’s behalf.

Pulumani said Makupula would follow up when he had the petition.

Organised by non-profit organisation Equal Education, the group braved freezing conditions in the provincial capital to urge Makupula to take urgent action to address the schools’ infrastructure crisis.

Together with teachers and Equal Education officials, pupils proceeded from Tyutyu Lower Primary to the Legislature to demand that Makupula: Eradicate mud schools speedily; Provide adequate classrooms, libraries, sanitation, sports facilities, halls, electricity and water;

Provide a clear plan and deadlines for stationery provision; and

Provide a clear plan on how schools would be fixed.

The embattled provincial department is bound by an agreement by which it has to eradicate seven mud schools – Nomandla Senior Primary School in Mabheleni, Tembeni Senior Primary School in Mayalweni, Madwaleni Senior Primary School in Bomvini, Sidanda Senior Primary School in Mpundweni, Nkonkoni Senior Primary School in Nkonkoni, Sompa Senior Primary School in Sompa and Maphindela Senior Primary School in Ntongwana, near Port St Johns.

The seven schools took the department to court over the dismal state of their structures and came out victorious.

Their victory became a victory for all when the government dedicated R8.2 billion to fix dilapidated schools around the country by 2014.

The Eastern Cape will received the largest chunk – R6.36bn.

Nomandla SPS pupil Asandiswa Mfibinga, who was part of the march to Bhisho, said the situation at her school was not conducive for learning.

“Sometimes the mud cracks when it’s wet and we can see through it from the inside. Sometimes, teachers ask for rooms in nearby homes so that we can learn. We are overcrowded in classrooms.”

Ngcongco JSS teacher Gcotyelwa Tyali said the situation at some schools was unbearable.

“When we get to school, we have to be social workers and parents of these children, besides being teachers. This is demoralising to teachers.

“Pupils come into school exhausted due to long distances and study in classrooms that can just fall at any minute.”

Equal Education deputy head of department and parliamentary liaison Dmitri Holtzman said the march was part of a national campaign for the provision of infrastructure at schools.

“We are building momentum and this is our first march in the Eastern Cape. We are expecting more. We want to keep reminding the government to be accountable to people.”

Holtzman accused the department, both nationally and provincially, of dragging its feet in addressing education issues.

“I don’t think the provincial department will make the 2014 deadline to eradicate mud schools.

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