Horror of going to school

19 March 2012 - 02:12 By NASHIRA DAVIDS and PHILANI NOMBEMBE
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Imagine being only six years old and having to walk 5km from school for a sip of water.

Or using the school toilet and picking up an infection because it is filthy.

These are just two examples of the shocking conditions thousands of children have to deal with at schools around the country.

Non-government organisations Equal Education and the Legal Resources Centre have taken the government to court because of the appalling conditions at schools.

Early next month, the government - including all nine provincial MECs for education, and ministers Angie Motshekga and Pravin Gordhan - is expected to file responding papers in the Grahamstown High Court.

They will have to defend themselves against a host of accusations contained in affidavits deposed by teachers, parents and principals.

Samson Senior Primary School in Eastern Cape has 130 pupils in grades R to six.

Wenani Ngxabani, who has a child at the school, said the toilets were a major problem.

"There is no privacy, humanity or dignity when they have to use the open toilets . [they] are a health hazard," he said.

"Most pupils use the fields .to relieve themselves because the toilets are unusable. Livestock often enter the toilets and make a terrible mess."

To make matters worse the pupils do not have access to tap water - the nearest is about 5km away.

"The lack of water . affects the pupils because they are often extremely thirsty and lose concentration easily," said Ngxabani.

Sakhikamva Senior Secondary School, also in Eastern Cape, has never had a telephone, fax machine or internet facilities.

"If the teachers need to use a telephone, they have to use their personal cellphones, said Makhaya Bopi, a member of the school governing body.

August Filander, a teacher at Alphine Primary School, in Mitchells Plain, said because crime is rife in the area windows are bolted shut. But this creates ventilation problems - especially in his class of 58 Grade 7 children who are crammed into a 4m x 5m classroom.

Small desks are used to fit as many into the class as possible. But, said Filander, the children in his class are too big for the desks.

He claimed that two children became seriously ill because of unhygienic toilets.

Equal Education's coordinator, Doron Isaacs, said 3600 schools are without electricity, 2400 have no clean water and 22000 have no library or science laboratories.

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