Newspaper clipping – The Star – 12 April 2010

Joburg’s abandoned schools

This year 14 primary schools in Soweto may close as the numbers of pupils dwindle.

A Government Gazette at the beginning of March this year listed 10 schools in the Joburg central district, which had closed in the past five years. Another five schools were set to merge this year. This does not include other school districts, which certain sections of Soweto fall under.

Mahlomola Kekana of the National Association of Parents in School Governance (NAPSG) said the organization had raised an objection to the proposed school closures. He said dwindling pupil numbers were leading to the decision to merge the schools, but this trend in the area was not being researched properly.
“A number of schools have closed in the past five years and we have been told another 14 will close this year,” said Kekana.
“Year in and year out we are closing and merging schools, but nobody has done any research or audit to find our why there are dropping numbers in the area.”

Kekana said the community needed to know what the problem was so that it could be attended to. He also said the MEC for education was not following the proper process when closing a school.

Chapter 3 of the South African Schools Act states that an MEC needs community involvement when closing a school. It needs to be stated in the Government Gazette and then 90 days must be given for public participation before a school can close.

Kekana said this was not happening at present.
“Schools are just being bull-dozed, teachers are redeployed and there is no public participation,” he said.

This brought into question what would happen to the property where schools used to be. Kekana said the property was handed over to the Department of Public Works which then handed it to the Joburg Property Company (JPC) if there was no obvious need for the land. The JPC then leased the land for the municipality.

In some school grounds this is a process that has worked. At the old Phenyo Combined School in Mapetla a day centre, food garden, hospice and home for children with epilepsy are being run from the old school grounds.
“They do sewing there and build furniture,” said community member Miriam Masilo.
“There is a lot happening. But I do want to know what happened to the school.”

While Phenyo is benefiting the community another school in the nearby suburb of Malapo is doing it harm. Trisano Primary merged with a school next door and the land is being used by thugs and the grass has grown so long that snakes and rats have become a menace to neighbours.

Marks Ramasike of NAPSG said the school used to be a place where community members gathered after the school bell rang, especially for church services. Mabato Mashwe, who lives near the school, said the community had had enough of the abandoned site and wanted something useful done with the space.
“There are thugs who hide in the long grass and they steal our cell phones, “ she said.
“There’s a woman from government I spoke to about using the ground for a vegetable garden, but she said we were not allowed to use it.”

Another neighbour, Andrew Amametse, said he was worried that “hooligans” would move on to the premises and start living there.
“They need to do something. I don’t like that old building across the road from my house.”