Learners lose out on schooling over road protest

Lucas Ledwaba

Scores of learners from 11 Limpopo schools will now have to play catch up after their learning was interrupted by a three week community shut down protest over a road during May.

Residents of ward 33 in the Fetakgomo Tubatse municipality of Limpopo embarked on a shutdown of services including schools in the area on May 14, demanding that government give them an undertaking on when it would commence on constructing a tar road on the D4180 road.

The road cuts through more than 15 villages between Sefateng and Mandaagshoek in the Sekhukhune district. Eight primary schools and three high schools were shut due to the protest action, which included the blockading of the D4180.

Spokesperson for the community task team that led the protest, Seloana Sekgobela, said the community had resolved there would be no schooling in the area in a bid to get the provincial government to attend to their demands.

A small portion of the road was tarred in a joint venture between Anglo American Platinum which operates mines in the area and the Limpopo government.

“This is a busy road. But it is in a bad condition. There is too much dust and during the rainy season people can’t travel to work or got to school. Even ambulances can’t come into the villages,” said Sekgobela.

He said there has been a number of public notices regarding the construction of the road since 2007, however there has been no progress.

In one letter dated 8 December 2012 signed by the Roads Agency Limpopo, an undertaking is made that construction on the road would commence on 1 April 2016.

However this has not been the case. In a letter from the office of the provincial MEC for public works, roads and infrastructure Dr Onnicah Mochadi’s office last week, the department has promised to meet with the community on 21 June to discuss the matter.

Sekgobela said they decided to suspend the shutdown following the commitment by public works.

He said the community had initially decided it was going to boycott the May 8 general and provincial elections in protest. But on May 5, after a community meeting they resolved to participate in the election. But they resolved to embark on the shutdown protest on May 14.

Learners resumed classes on Friday following a meeting between community representatives and officials from the department of public works, roads and infrastructure in Polokwane a day earlier.

Two high school learners speaking on condition of anonymity said they were against the shutdown but feared going against the community’s call.

They spent their days playing football, loitering in the village or trying to study during the three week break instead of being in class. The protest covered rural villages such as Ga-Selepe where there are no public libraries or other amenities to keep the youth engaged in positive activities.

Limpopo department of education Sam Makondo said they have set down a recovery plan for the learners to catch up on lost time. He said this includes extra lessons in the afternoon and during the winter holiday break.

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