South Africa: Language wrangle holds up opening of R8m school

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sat May 10 12:29:17 UTC 2008

Language wrangle holds up opening of R8m school


THE newly-built multimillion rand public school in Gonubie has become
overgrown with grass and weeds as the provincial Department of
Education tries to sign up a principal. The empty building, finished
last year at a cost of R8.2million, is slowly becoming a "white
elephant" with little progress towards ensuring its opening next year.
Last year Mpangazita Ngwanya, the East London district director of
education, told the Dispatch the school would open early this year,
but later changed his statement when they were unable to appoint a
principal. But Patrick Monani, a councillor at Amathole District
Municipality, who serves on the education desk for the nearby
Mzamomhle township, says finding staff is not the only reason for the
delay. It was also due to conflicts within the communities of
Mzamomhle and adjacent Gonubie .

He said ANC members living in the suburb wanted children from the
township to be fluent in English. "There is a huge political problem
towards that school that delays everything there," said Monani. "Our
children deserve to be in that school, even if they don't know
English." The school's interim structure chairman, Mluleki Luke,
denied there was a crisis over the school, but admitted there were
concerns about its current state. "Some will say this school is
turning out to be a white elephant, but there is no crisis here,
except that the Department of Education has been struggling to get a
principal," said Luke. Bridging courses in English, initially promised
to help pupils from feeder schools, have yet to start, but Luke
brushed the issue aside, saying the bridging of pupils was not a
government policy.

"Parents must not worry about the bridging courses," he said, "but
they must understand that English is universal and it's a medium of
learning all over. For Gonubie school we are working on something that
can accommodate learners from Mzamomhle township." Education
spokesperson Loyiso Pulumani refuted claims that the school was having
problems enrolling its first intake of pupils. Instead, he boasted, it
would be a "new model South African school" where combined races from
Mzamomhle and Gonubie would study.

"The reason we never wanted to rush to open the school was because of
issues you have just raised of alleged conflict within communities.
"We've finally found a principal who will take care of the school."
But Pulumani said the proposed principal had not yet signed a contract
. Asked about the current state of the school, Pulumani said: "The
person who will run the school will take care of that and, by next
year, definitely, everything will be in order."


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