THE EDUCATION of nearly 350 Soweto children hangs in the balance as a legal dispute drags on between Hoernle Primary School and the Gauteng Education Department.
The principal of the school in Rockville has told Eyewitness News that even after two court orders compelling Gauteng education officials to pay teachers and support it financially the department has left it without any means of functioning.
The court battle started back in 2016 when provincial officials tried to close down Hoernle Primary because of dwindling pupil numbers and other issues.
Principal of the school Mzimkhulu Hlalukana says the school in Rockville has endured many hardships in order to continue teaching over 300 pupils.
“And the MEC, in particular and the HOD, are supposed to be getting children to school. Why are they stopping children from attending the school?”
The school has been unable to pay teachers and service providers alike.
Phendulani Msiya says after he did IT work for the school worth over R100,000 last year, the department refused to pay him and he was forced to close down his business.
“I employed about six people in my company. I had to let them go, all of them.”
Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi says the department stopped supporting the school due a number of issues, including that it is operating illegally.
“Where they are now, they are taught by unqualified teachers and we can’t condone such an act.”
Lesufi insists he is committed to finding a solution despite the fact his department is ignoring two court orders compelling them to support the school.
The principal is demanding answers from the department on why it has failed to comply with the court orders to support the school financially as it battles to provide education for the young pupils.
Hlalukana says the school has been struggling with its feeding schemes, stationery and other equipment because the department has been withholding funds meant to help it provide education to the pupils.
“And whilst he’s been running away dodging his responsibilities of the school, we had to bring service providers who came to our rescue.”
But Lesufi says his officials will not be held to ransom by a school that refuses to abide by the department’s norms and standards.
“People opened this school and appointed themselves as teachers and principals without following procedure.”
Meanwhile, concerned parents are demanding assurance from the authorities that their children will be protected after a Soweto primary school was rocked by allegations of sexual abuse for the second time in five months.
It emerged this week that a forensic investigator, who was preparing two young girls for court proceedings involving a school guard, allegedly molested the pair.
The children aged 7 and 8 are part of a group of more than 80 who were previously sexually assaulted at the Orlando East school, allegedly by the security guard.
Two mothers walked out of AB Xuma Primary School’s gates after a meeting with officials visibly distraught.
They are leaning on each other for support and are finding it hard to believe that their children are going through more trauma, inflicted allegedly by another man who was entrusted with protecting them.
Although they are reluctant to talk about the latest incident, the women are adamant that the forensic investigator should have never been allowed to interact with the children without the presence of a professional counsellor.
There have been strong words from the Gauteng Education Department and the provincial police commissioner, who have promised that the case is being prioritised.
But this is little comfort for the parents, who say that officials could have done more to prevent this from happening again.