Hundreds of learners from Sizimisele Technical School in Khayelitsha were violently dispersed by almost 100 police behind the Woodstock Train Station, close to central Cape Town. Both SAPS and Metro Police were involved in this operation.
The protest succeeded in getting Mr John Lyners from the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) to come to where the students were being held, behind Woodstock train station, and address our grievances. He has promised that the teachers will be in place by Thursday 8 May. He later confirmed this in writing. This victory shows that today's protest was worth it, because we will have teachers on Thursday.
After Mr Lyners spoke we got up to leave, and began walking slowly towards the station. It was at this moment that Captain Prins instructed the police to begin pushing. The police quickly became aggressive. They pushed us forcefully, including women, they threatened violence and kicked some of us. Some of the most violent police were named Hendricks, September, Jordaan and Booi. Fortunatley nobody is hurt.
We were attempting to march to the Provincial Parliament because we have not had teachers in key subjects for a month. The police threatened to arrest us but we refused to move. We believe that the only reason there were so many police was because tomorrow is the elections. Two weeks ago we held the exact same picket outside the WCED without any problem.
We have not had teachers for over a month. The subjects affected are mainly Maths, Physical Science, Mechanical Engineering and Civil Engineering, for grades 10, 11 and 12. We believe as students that our rights are being violated. As the June exams come closer we are falling further behind. We are also unable to apply to tertiary institutions because we have received no reports this year.
Our school, Sizimisele Technical School, in Makhaya, Khayelitsha, was established in 2002. It has been located in Strand and Elsiesriver, but since 2007, when a new school building was constructed, it has been permanently in Khayelitsha. In 2009 the school became a technical school. This has meant that engineering and design subjects have been introduced, and subjects like accounting, history and geography are being phased out. The school has dropped from 1,300 learners to 915 learners.
As a result of the change of subjects, and the reduction of students, the WCED says that we had 9 teachers on permanent contracts who were in excess. However the problem was that these were not in the right subjects – they were not technical subject teachers. The school therefore arranged six extra teachers on contracts to teach the technical subjects. The problem is that for the past four months these teachers have not been paid.
Therefore these five teachers stopped working a month ago. The School Governing Body (SGB) was able to pay the teachers R4,000 each to cover the past few months, but this only brought them back for a few days. There seems to be a disagreement between the WCED and the principal, Mr Maruping. The WCED says that he should not have hired these additional teachers. But how else were we supposed to be taught?
The simple fact is that we are without teachers in key subjects, and our rights are being violated daily.
For the past few weeks we have been organising to change the situation. The Representative Council of Learners (RCL) held meetings of learners, and held meetings with the principal. Students mobilised to picket outside the WCED head office in Cape Town. On Wednesday 23 April Mr John Lyners told us that the District Director, Mr Melvin Caroline, would come to meet us at our school the next day. We waited for Mr Caroline but he did not come. Therefore hundreds of students picketed at the WCED head office on Thursday 24 April. We suspended our protest when the WCED gave us an official letter saying problems would be addressed. They also told us that problems would be resolved by Monday 5 May. But today, 6 May, there were still no teachers! Grade 12 Maths Literacy students are also without textbooks.
We hope that, as Mr Lyners has promised, everything is resolved by Thursday. This must include the catch-up plan he has promised.