Limpopo Education explains "Selowe primary school" saga

Monday, May 28, 2012

Pretoria - The Limpopo Department of Education has moved to put across certain facts with regard to a Sunday media report about the learners of "Selowe primary school" in Limpopo who are being taught under trees.

According to the report, the school, which has no textbooks, stationery, chairs, desks or toilets, has about 165 learners who are being taught by 14 teachers who are not being compensated.

The school was reportedly established after some parents refused to send their children to nearby villages after pupils were allegedly raped on their way to school.

According to the provincial department, they received an application for the establishment of a school with a proposed name from the community of Silvermine in Blouberg municipality on 9 September 2011.

A feasibility study was then conducted in the area in November - which also showed that there was indeed a need for a school in the village.

However, for the establishment of a school, the department said it needed to plan other infrastructure provisions such as learner teacher support materials, deployment of educators as well as water and sanitation, among other things.

"All of the above are key to the establishment of a new school and would not be possible to complete in few months," the department explained.

Then in December 2011 the community representatives went to the department to demand the approval of their application. They threatened that they will withdraw their children from neighbouring schools, Kgwale Primary school - which is less than 4km from Silvermine - and Seanego Primary school which is about 6km from the village.

According to the department, they met with the community again in 17 January, to give them a progress report on their application where the department indicated that it would not be possible to establish the school in 2012.

Instead, the establishment of Selowe Primary School had been approved for January 2013, with road improvement discussions already underway at municipality level.

In the meantime, the community was offered scholar transport to take their children to the neighbouring schools, which the community rejected. Instead they demanded an immediate establishment of a school, said the department.

On January 18, parents removed their children from the two neighbouring state schools and established Selowe Primary School under trees and shacks in the village - which the department says is illegal.

"They did this against the advice of the department and vowed not to take their children to their registered schools in the neighbouring villages."

The department said there was no single qualified teacher as purported by the article.

Therefore, according to the department it would be wrong to say that 'Selowe Primary School' exists, has a 'principal' and 'volunteer teachers', and it is not possible that they could offer a recognised curriculum.

"Based on that, the department is under no obligation to pay anybody who is 'teaching' these children."

Despite going against their will, the department continued to engage the community through several meetings to try and persuade them to reconsider the department's offer of transport to the two state schools - again the community rejected the offer.

The department said it has done everything possible to impress the community of Silvermine, but they refused. The officials said they remained hopeful that a solution will be found for the situation.

"Otherwise, the department will be left with no other option but to seek other alternatives which are legally enforceable."