While the Blikkiesdorp community awaits relocation, the community has been battling to ensure that all school learners attend and remain in school. A recent report by children’s right organisation Molo Songololo indicated that within Blikkiesdorp, at least 40 children have been left without formal education for approximately two years, as local schools remain over populated. In an area that is plagued by poverty and crime, the community is saying that it is frustrated at the inaction of the Western Cape Education Department (WCED).
In the survey conducted by Molo Songololo, residents cited the over population of schools, a lack of transport, and missing documentation such as birth certificates as reasons for children not attending school.
Secretary of the Blikkiesdorp Joint Committee, Etienne Claasen explained that in February 2016, the committee in coordination with the WCED was scheduled to assess the number of children that are not in attendance at school.
He said that department officials did not fulfil their obligations and that the committee consequently requested the assistance of Molo Songologo.
“They [department officials] just disappeared; they did not pitch-up anywhere.”
Claasen said that the main reason for the number of children who are not attending school is as a result of overcrowding in local schools and that parents are unable to afford rising registration costs.
While the WCED has recently indicated that it acknowledges the situation, he asserted that the department has not previously shown interest in seeing to the needs of the children of Blikkiesdorp.
“For these children not to be part of any school is really heart-breaking, because they really want to attend school and we are trying everything possible to assist them. At the end of the day, the WCED must assist our community,” he continued.
In response, Jessica Shelver, the spokesperson for provincial education MEC Debbie Schafer, said the WCED acknowledges that there are children who are unable to attend school in Blikkiesdorp and that departmental officials did assess the situation on Friday and again this week. She said that the department has documented the children who remain out of school and have requested the ID numbers of the parents.
Shelver added that the department is working to remedy the situation, but that it is the responsibility of parents to enrol their children at school. She further noted that while the nearest school is approximately 500 meters away, alternate schools are within a three kilometre radius.
“But, some parents simply fail to enrol their children at the beginning of the year. It is not the responsible of the Department of Education to go door-to-door enrolling children – we don’t have the human resources.”
She said that the department did not delay the process, since it only received the new list of 43 children in the past week and is now looking to assist these children.
In response to reports of Blikkiesdorp parents being ill-treated when requesting assistance at schools, Shelver asserted that it is not within the code of conduct for education officials to treat parent as outcasts.
While various reports indicate that certain schools have requested registration fees in a bid to discontinue the registration of Blikkiesdorp children, Shelver affirmed that no school is permitted to request a registration fee.
“If parents have any details of people who ask for that, we would like them to let us know, because schools cannot ask for [registration fees],” she urged.