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Parents shut ‘unsafe’ schools over lack of hygiene and sanitation

It was like a scene from a wrestling match as parents wrangled with a security guard for the keys to the gate during a protest about the lack of screening‚ sanitisers‚ soap and water at a school in Naas‚ near Komatipoort‚ in Mpumalanga.

Angry parents and residents yesterday shut down Mbazima Primary School‚ saying their children were at risk of contracting coronavirus as there were no proper handwashing basins‚ soap or water.

The school reopened on Monday as grade 7s and 12s returned to school after months of being away during the lockdown.

Parents said when their children came home on Monday‚ they revealed that there was only one water tank and there was no soap or sanitisers provided to them. Parents also said there was no screening of children at the gate to the school.

“On Monday we thought all was well but after finding out that there was no proper hand washing happening‚ we went to the school to see for ourselves the next day. We were not impressed and we took the decision to not allow the school to accommodate the children until the department provided it with water‚ sanitisers and people to do screening‚” said community member Sibusiso Sibiya.

“After we closed the school‚ the circuit manager came and told us that they had hired people to clean and to screen pupils‚ teachers and other staff members at the school — but they didn’t show up. He even asked us to volunteer; we can’t volunteer when there are people who are being paid‚ that is an insult‚” said Sibiya.

Education spokesperson Jasper Zwane said the department would send an official to the school to evaluate the situation.

“We deposited cash for the school to use to hire cleaners. Judging by these allegations‚ it’s clear the problem lies with the school and the school governing body (SGB)‚ but we can’t pre-empt now‚” said Zwane.

Attempts to get hold of an SGB member known only as Zitho failed yesterday as her phone went unanswered.

Mbazima Primary is not the only school to be closed by parents. At Mpumelelo Primary School‚ also in Mpumalanga‚ parents stopped their children from going to school on Monday‚ saying the toilets were not safe.

They accused the department of promising to rebuild the toilets after a child fell into one early last year‚ but not keeping the promise.

At the time‚ Zwane said the school would be rebuilt and would get 16 new classrooms and toilets in the 2019/2020 financial year. Zwane said an official had been sent to meet the parents.

Meanwhile‚ parents‚ concerned that their school was not being properly cleaned‚ volunteered their time to do it. Kamogelo Primary School in Westonaria on the west rand was closed yesterday to allow the parents to clean it after they were unhappy with the dirt they found when they dropped their children off on Monday.

“Learners were given masks after school and they had been playing outside the whole day because we refused to allow them into dirty classrooms‚” said parent Siphokazi Molefe.

“I am hurt because the school does not care about our children‚” said another parent‚ Ntombifuthi Mnisi.

The school provided them with pine gel‚ polish and steel wool. They have also made a commitment to clean the school twice a week to protect their children.

“The parents were not satisfied with the neatness of the school‚ which was cleaned on May 31. A decision was taken that the school be temporarily closed for today‚ June 10‚ only‚ and be cleaned by parents as per volunteerism. The school will reopen tomorrow [today]‚” said education department spokesperson Steve Mabona.

Source: ARENA Holdings.

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