Parent power cleans up as school restart day looms

31 May 2020 - 00:00 By LWANDILE BHENGU
Tholiwe Hlophe, left, and Skhumbuzo Mchunu - parents at Sobonakhona Secondary School in Umbumbulu - disinfect a classroom as the school prepares to partially reopen.
Tholiwe Hlophe, left, and Skhumbuzo Mchunu - parents at Sobonakhona Secondary School in Umbumbulu - disinfect a classroom as the school prepares to partially reopen.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

Two days after basic education minister Angie Motshekga announced that schools would be partially reopening on June 1, Tholiwe Hlophe grabbed her cleaning supplies and marched to her son's school, where she and other parents began cleaning in preparation for the return of grade 12 pupils.

Parents at Sobonakhona Secondary School in Umbumbulu, south of Durban, have spent the past week knee-deep in bleach and sanitiser, scrubbing and mopping classrooms, washing windows and moving desks in preparation for the return of 60 matric pupils.

"We committed ourselves to cleaning this whole school because we wanted to. A few members of the community had a conversation after we heard that schools were opening and we decided that we needed to get up and get to work. Whoever wants to come can, there is no problem," said Hlophe.

Said fellow parent Skhumbuzo Mchunu: "Our biggest concern and fear was that children will get this virus and that's why we decided to get to work and clean so that the children could come back to better conditions."

Hlophe's child is in grade 11 and Mchunu's is in grade 8. As such, neither will send their children back to school tomorrow, but they chose to clean it anyway.

Bonginkosi Zondi cuts a desk to make it a single-seater so as to comply with social distancing rules in classrooms at Zwelibanzi High School in Umlazi, Durban.
Bonginkosi Zondi cuts a desk to make it a single-seater so as to comply with social distancing rules in classrooms at Zwelibanzi High School in Umlazi, Durban.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

According to staff at the school, a company was sent to disinfect and fumigate classrooms but left without doing so because it said its services would be useless as classroom windows were broken. Parents initially used their own supplies from home but have recently been provided with gloves, disinfectant and aprons by the provincial education department.

"I am not very fearful that my child might get the virus because we are here and we have tried to clean. If we didn't clean, I would have that fear," said Hlophe.

in numbers

• 60 - Grade 12 pupils at Sobonakhona Secondary School

• 4 - The number of classrooms that will be used for the pupils

Mchunu said children are eager to get back to school and the ball is now in the department's court.

"We have done our part as parents and all we ask government to do is that they make sure that all the necessary items are there to ensure that children are safe," said Mchunu.

These sentiments were echoed by the chair of the school governing body, Skhumbuzo Njapha, who said as parents they want to make sure that they do all they can before schools open. 

"If we had sat and done nothing it would have looked like we support the fact that our children are not going to school," said Njapha.

"The children are very excited to get back to school, especially the grade 12s. As parents, you genuinely feel like your school has done well if you were able to produce good matric results."

Njapha said the biggest concern come tomorrow will be whether the provincial government has fixed the school's toilets, which are in a dilapidated and unusable state, and has provided water for the JoJo tanks. Currently, all pupils at the school have to share one tap.


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