Department’s inaction placing lives of Fort Beaufort learners at risk

Issued by Yusuf Cassim, MPL
Shadow MEC for Education

It is simply unacceptable that the Department of Education does not care that the lives of primary school learners at Fort Beaufort Primary School are placed at risk.

Children on their way to school have been threatened at knife point, residents use the school grounds as a shortcut and cattle graze on the school sports fields because the school’s perimeter fencing has been vandalised and stolen.

The lack of fencing has also led to the school premises being burgled and vandalised.

The damaged fencing was reported by the school to the Department of Education three years ago, and to date the Department has still not taken any action to assist.

When the matter was brought to my attention in July last year, I followed up with the District Director for Amathole West, Ms Futshane. To date, after numerous follow ups, no response has been received.

In November, I then wrote to the Director of Infrastructure, Mr Tsepo Pefole. After two follow ups, an acknowledgement of receipt was received stating “The letter in the email is noted and acknowledged. We will revert back soonest after soliciting responses from our district teams.”

To date, no further response has been received.

I have also submitted parliamentary questions to Education MEC, Fundile Gade, who confirmed that they had received the request from the school in 2017, but that they were waiting for budget to become available.

If the safety of our learners was really a concern for the Department, then the budget would be made available. The Department determines what their funds are spent on, they could easily have allocated funding for the fencing.

That they have not done so for three years in a row shows that they do not care about the learners of Fort Beaufort Primary.

In the DA run Western Cape, they have launched the Walking Bus Project, which entails parents, as well as volunteers from the broader community, walking groups of children to school in the morning and back home in the afternoon, with the aim of improving learner safety.

In addition, if available to do so, the Walking Bus volunteers keep an eye on the perimeters of their local schools.

If the Department of Education cannot afford to put up fences, then they should at least consider partnering with communities and establish a similar project in the province.

Children attending schools in the Eastern Cape should feel safe, so that they can focus on their education. They should not have go to school with the fear of being stabbed.

Security of person and property are paramount and are what separates an open opportunity society for all from a closed crony society for some.

The Democratic Alliance is working every day to build an open opportunity society for all.