DA lays charges against protestors holding education in Malamulele hostage

Desiree van der Walt MP

DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Basic Education:

The DA has laid charges against the self-appointed leader of the protestors and the ‘Shut Down Management Committee’, Mr Bedjani Hlungwane, and any members who have assisted him in preventing children from attending schools in Malamulele.

Roughly 150 schools have been unable to open their doors for the 2015 school year, affecting 179,000 learners who have not been able to go to school.

What is of particular concern is that approximately 300 matric student’s eligible to write supplementary exams have been unable to register to write these exams.

The protection of school infrastructure must be prioritised and urgent contingency plans put in place to:

  • ensure that those matric students who qualified to write supplementary exams are able to register and write them;
  • ensure that those children who have been denied education this year are accommodated immediately.

At a community meeting over the weekend Mr Hlungwane said that the protest is set to continue for another 21 days. This means that children in the area will be denied education for a further 3 weeks. This is unacceptable.

The right to a basic education is enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa as a basic human right. The South African Schools Act dictates that children between the ages of 7 and 15 are subject to compulsory school attendance. Depriving children of their constitutional right to basic education is a criminal offense.

Section 3(1) of the South African Schools Act 84 of 1996 reads as follows:

“Subject to this Act and any applicable provincial law, every parent must cause every learner for whom he or she is responsible to attend a school from the first school day of the year in which such learner reaches the age of seven years until the last school day of the year in which such learner reaches the age of fifteen years or the ninth grade, whichever occurs first.”

Section 3(6)(b) of the SA Schools Act reads:

“Subject to this Act and any other applicable law, any other person (other than a parent) who, without just cause, prevents a learner who is subject to compulsory attendance from attending a school, is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months.”

It is in terms of this section that criminal charges have been laid against every protestor involved in the closure of the 150 schools.

The DA does not condone any violence or the destruction of property, but understands the desperation these protestors must feel. However it is imperative that the children are allowed to go back to school, as is their constitutional right, so they are not denied the opportunity to better their futures through education.

Residents have been protesting for a month, demanding a shift in the municipal boundaries to enable Malamulele to govern their own local resources and accusing the Thulamela municipality of channelling services to Tshivenda-speaking areas at the expense of Xitsonga residents.

Five schools in the area have been burnt so far and no contingency plans appear to have been put in place to ensure that no more school infrastructure is destroyed.

The impact of these protests on the education of Malamulele children will be far-reaching. These children are being denied an education, in direct contravention of their constitutionally guaranteed right.

Immediate and effective action is needed.