Pupils at Rivoni School for the Blind closed the R578 on Monday after the Department of Education allegedly failed to honour their promise of building them a school.

Rivoni pupils close up R578 in demand for a school

 

The pupils at Rivoni School for the Blind closed the R578 on Monday after the Department of Education in Limpopo allegedly failed to honour their promise of building a school for the pupils with special needs.

In May 2016, the department said they would renovate the old Lemana College at Magangeni village for the use by the pupils. The school currently makes use of the old buildings at Rivoni Society for the Blind at Njhakanjhaka village, near Elim.

“They failed to keep their promise,” said a pupil, Nhlawulo Baburi. “Do these people know the kind of environment we are subjected to at Rivoni Society for the Blind's dilapidated buildings?”

According to the pupils, the department failed to address the school's concerns regarding shelter and educational facilities. A quick tour through the school the past week showed the conditions under which the children are living – from stinking, dirty rooms, showers, and classrooms to courtyards smelling with odorous sewage.

Vhutshilo Rasivhetshele (18) pointed at one of the worn-out mattresses: “Look, is this what the department expects us to use for sleeping? We have no proper blankets and linens, just some rags with which we cover our bodies. This is truly demeaning; we sometimes do not feel like full humans – they are reducing us to pigs that stay and live in a pigsty.”

Rudzani Makheda (24) added that if their parents knew about the filthiness of the classrooms and dormitories at the school, they would have removed them from the school a long time ago.

“But then I, for one, would not have allowed them to remove me because sitting at home doing nothing is not an option. I have to be at Rivoni,” she said. “We are living in heart-breaking conditions.”

While the sleeping conditions in the girls' dormitories could be described as a “little better” when compared to the boys', the taps on the sink are always dripping and overflowing into the dormitories from the indoors bathrooms.

“The taps are old and messed up, so we are always ready to mop the water off the floor,” said Rudzani. “We know there's no money to fix these taps here, but the government should see to it that they arrange for the fixing of the taps and sewerage system because this is just another waste.”

The pupils between the ages 5 and 12 sleep in pairs on a single bed because beds and bedding are lacking.

The mobile classrooms that were delivered in March 2016 amid the pupils' strike are all now leaking when it rains. The wooden flooring is shaky and riddled with big holes in some places. The mobile toilets are not hygienic either.

“There's a shortage of braille-writer machines, and the braille-printing machines that were donated some years ago are always conked out and fixing them is costly,” said a pupil.

The boys' dormitories resemble a “pigsty” as one pupil says, with all mattresses worn out and revealing steal springs and disintegrating cotton. “We have neither lockers nor wardrobes, so our clothes lay on our beds and down on the floor, and that alone makes us feel less than human,” said Vhutshilo.

The Department of Education's spokesperson Sam Makondo said that the department was aware of the pupils' protest and that they were calling for calm in the school. “The department has made a lot of progress as far as the school project is concerned,” said Makondo.

He said that this was a special project and a first of its kind in the province, with no standard designs, making it very different from the schools the department normally builds in the province.

“We need to do bench-marking with other provinces that have similar schools, so that we avoid a situation where we will build a school that might not serve the purpose,” he said. “This is a school that must cater for all learners in the province and not the learners in that area only. The designs have been finalised and the project will be going out on tender at the end of this month. We shall work around the clock to ensure that the contractor is appointed. So, what we need here is patience because surely the project is going to be implemented as planned.”

 

 

Vhutshilo Rasivhetshele and Rudzani Makheda hold a tattered mattress.

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Date:11 April 2019 - By: Tshifhiwa Mukwevho

Tshifhiwa Mukwevho

Tshifhiwa Given Mukwevho was born in 1984 in Madombidzha village, not far from Louis Trichardt in the Limpopo Province. After submitting articles for roughly a year for Limpopo Mirror's youth supplement, Makoya, he started writing for the main newspaper. He is a prolific writer who published his first book, titled A Traumatic Revenge in 2011. It focusses on life on the street and how to survive amidst poverty. His second book titled The Violent Gestures of Life was published in 2014.

Email: givenmukwevho@yahoo.com

 

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