The government has closed down six schools in Atteridgeville. And five thousand children are walking the streets with nothing to do.
The government closed the schools because the students stopped going to school. They say they will only go back to school when the government makes some changes.
What changes do the students want? What are their problems? Learn and Teach went to Atteridgeville to find out.
THE MOUTH AND EARS OF THE STUDENTS
“We have so many problems at the schools here in Pretoria,” said a student leader. “We need a way to tell the people in charge of the schools about these problems. To do this we need an SRC in every school. The students in each school must choose their own leaders for their SRC. The SRC is the mouth and ears of the students. The SRC will take our problems to the headmaster. It will try to solve our problems for us”.
BRUISES ON THE BUTTOCKS
“Another big problem at our schools is the way teachers beat the students,” says one student from Atteridgeville.
“I was hit 35 times on the buttocks, then 45 times and then 40 times – all in one week. The only thing I did wrong was to leave my book at home. Another time I refused to sing in the school choir. I do many things. I don’t really have the time for the choir. My buttocks were black and blue for days afterwards.”
The students say that beatings like this happen every day. A teacher beat one Atteridgeville student so badly that the student needed an operation on his hand.
The government has rules for the punishment of students at schools. The students say they only want the teachers to follow these rules. You can read about these rules in the poster in the middle of this magazine.
GIVE OUR LEADERS A CHANCE
The students say they have another problem. Last year the government said that students over 20 years old can’t stay at school anymore. The students are angry about this law.
They say many students missed school because of the trouble in 1976 and the years after that. And many students missed school because their parents were short of money – and they had to work first.
“In Atteridgeville the schools are very strict about this law,” says the students. “But other schools are not so strict. So many students go to school in other townships. Our leaders are all older students. We think that Atteridgeville schools use this law to get rid of our leaders. We want our leaders to go to school near their homes in Atteridgeville.”
LOVE, BOOZE AND MONEY
The students also complain about the bad behaviour of some teachers. They say that some teachers drink a lot. One teacher was even fired for sniffing glue.
“These same teachers like to love our women students”, they say. “Some of these teachers fall in love with young girls in their own class. Then the teachers don’t teach well because they feel shy teaching in front of their girlfriends.”
“Other teachers force girls to make love to them. They say they ” They punish them or make them fail if the girls do not agree”.
The students also complain that a few teachers steal their money. They say one teacher collected money to buy books and dictionaries. The students waited for two months for their books. No books came. They say another teacher collected school fees. He did not give the students any receipts and he kept the money. This teacher was fired – but he only paid back half the money.
“We do not say that all the teachers do these things,” say the students. “Only a few of them give the teachers a bad name. But we do say the government must put a stop to the bad behaviour of these few teachers. “
THE REAL ANSWER
The students of Atteridgeville have spoken. They have told the world about some of their problems. But these are only some of the problems. What about the shortage of teachers? What about the over crowded classrooms? What about the thousands of matric failures every year?
The students stopped going to school. And the government closed the schools. The government says the six schools have “ceased to exist”. Is this the answer?
“The real answer is for the government to drop Bantu Education altogether,” says a community leader in Atteridgeville. “Until we have equal education under the same department for all the children of this country, we will have angry school children. Surely that is the right of every child.”