THREE years ago, DA education spokesman Edmund van Vuuren wrote a letter to then Eastern Cape premier Noxolo Kiviet, warning her about the growing threat of school closures and listing proposals on how to fix the education crisis in Port Elizabeth’s northern areas.
But nothing was done and, instead, the situation deteriorated, hundreds of parents who attended a crisis meeting on education, hosted by the DA in West End, were told last night.
Fast-forward to the present and today is the eighth day that angry parents have kept schools closed in the northern areas this year due to various education challenges, chief of which are overcrowded classrooms and teacher shortages.
There has been virtually no teaching since last Monday after the parents voted to keep the schools closed until the department addressed these demands.
“My heart bleeds to see our children outside classes,” Van Vuuren told the public meeting.
“Three years ago, we gave the education department ways of remedying the ever-growing education crisis, and to this day nothing has changed. In fact, the situation has worsened.”
Van Vuuren and DA mayoral candidate Athol Trollip gave those present their insight into the present crisis.
“Port Elizabeth’s northern areas [schools] come last year after year, both at provincial and local level,” Trollip said.
“Every year we see plans to mend education and, every year, we see the progressive degradation of an already broken system.”
Van Vuuren proposed that retired and unemployed teachers be brought to schools on a contract basis until vacant positions could be filled permanently.
He said a comprehensive list of vacant posts should be advertised as widely as possible to attract qualified teachers from all over the country.
Northern Areas Education Forum (NAEF) member Gordon Samson, who attended the meeting, called the proposals “beautiful”, and reiterated the forum’s view that the Department of Education be held accountable for its failure to improve education.
Meanwhile, the NAEF is preparing to take the department to court, along with teacher unions Naptosa, SAOU and various former Model C schools in the Port Elizabeth district which are all affected by crippling teacher shortages.
NAEF chairman Ronald Matthys said: “I have just received an 86-page affidavit which I have to read through.
“We will be represented by Legal Aid South Africa, but I believe they will get the Legal Resources Centre on board.
“This is a wide-reaching issue which affects all schools, not just the northern areas.”
Matthys said the forum had first decided to take legal action last year and parents had been informed.
“However, the legal process is a lengthy process. Things will not happen overnight, but it has been coming for a while now,” he said.
Nationalist Coloured Party regional chairman Marlon Daniels claims parents are despondent and frustrated with the NAEF’s lack of progress.
“If a sports team does not produce results the coach is replaced,” he said.
“At every forum meeting, the leadership echoes the same thing. They are no longer representing the voice of the masses.
“We need to intensify the heat. Talking no longer helps, so we need to have protest marches.”
But Matthys said: “I am not aware of any parent who would like to see a change of guard in the forum.
“Yes, the parents are not satisfied with the promises of the department, and this is why they have said no children will be in school until their key demands are met.