'Here we don’t do number two' - Soweto school principal

27 March 2018 - 14:10 By Kgaugelo Masweneng
Pupils wait for class to start at Ditau Primary School in Soweto, Gauteng, March 27, 2018.
Pupils wait for class to start at Ditau Primary School in Soweto, Gauteng, March 27, 2018.
Image: Greg Roxburgh/TimesLIVE.

A hole in the wall‚ faint light bulbs‚ dusty roof insulation with a collapsing ceiling‚ and mould on the walls are what greet you when you enter classrooms of Ditau primary school in Soweto.

On Tuesday TimesLive visited the school‚ which enrols more than 500 unbothered playful learners‚ and found the buildings in a state of disrepair with threatening conditions for both learners and teachers.

Though they seemed unperturbed by what was happening around them‚ the learners complained that dust from the roof insulation often falls on them and causes an uncomfortable itch.

They also made a joke about how rats often parade in front of them while in class or how some die in the hole in the wall and leave a stench.

Grade 1 teacher Reginah Mundalamo relayed her constant distress over the leaky and collapsing roof.

“Last week while it was raining we arrived to find a pool of water in the classroom. Not only does the water come in through the roof but the sides of the floor are broken. Before we could do anything we had to sweep the water and clean - this took most of the day‚” Mundalamo said‚ while trying to keep her classroom quiet and orderly.

Learners sit on worn-out chairs and have little resources to better their schooling experience.

Mundalamo said one day she came to school and found pieces of the ceiling on the floor after they had fallen overnight. “I was scared; I couldn’t help but fear for my learners. What if it fell during class? It’s not good for them.”

When she started work at the school two months ago‚ principal Dikeledi Poopedi told her “here we don’t do number two”. Teachers cannot use the bathroom due to a plumbing problem where some of the pipes are not functional in the administration block. It is no surprise that the school is collapsing as it was established in 1942‚ she said.

“The toilets are a disaster and the school is falling apart. The first time I came here I noticed that the pavement was slippery and therefore unsafe for learners. I even fell while going to class a week ago‚ it’s not user friendly. The department told me the school was their primary concern‚ I am still waiting‚” said Poopedi.

Poopedi said she was disappointed that her school was not among those selected to receive funding from the Motsepe Foundation‚ which donated more than R8.5-million to several schools and churches in Soweto on Tuesday. 

Gcina Mthalali‚ 22‚ a student teacher doing his practical learning at the school‚ started a campaign to raise funds for the school with his friends. Mthalali‚ who has been at the school for four months‚ said the crumbling infrastructure was a barrier to teaching and learning.

“On rainy days we can hardly teach because the learners cannot focus. I worry about the safety of my learners; hence we made this call to seek financial support. It can’t be that we only act when something bad has happened. Like with the situation where learners die in toilet pit holes - it’s not like the department didn’t know about it before‚" said Mthalali.

Still studying with the University of Johannesburg for his teaching qualification‚ Mthalali is not disheartened with the conditions of schools nor the scandals in the basic education sector. “Nothing will discourage me. I am doing this because I love it‚ it’s exactly where I should be and while I am here I would love to see change‚” he added.

The school is pleading for donations to ensure a safe and conducive learning environment.

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