Fee for use of school hall displaces study group

Pupils and parents of AK Snapshots Study Group protesting outside Searidge Park Primary School.

In a dramatic protest outside Searidge Park Primary in Tafelsig last week, tutors, parents and pupils of AK Snapshots Study Group mourned the loss of charity, volunteerism, sharing, upliftment, education, inspiration, honesty and principles.

At the protest on Youth Day, Wednesday June 16, they put labels with these good characters written on them, in a coffin. This, after they were informed that, they’d now be required to pay for the use of the hall at Searidge Park Primary, where they have been based for the past four years.

The group was started 16 years ago and had initially been based at the then Thusong Centre – now called the Nelson Mandela Youth and Family Centre. It then moved to the Tafelsig library, and then to Wolfgat Nature Reserve Environmental Education Centre before settling at Searidge Park Primary School it had had been using the venue to provide free extra tuition to close to 200 pupils from around Mitchell’s Plain.

Andrew Koopman, founder and co-ordinator of the group, said the school was the most central venue for pupils in Tafelsig, and argued that the hall was big enough to accommodate the 17 pupils who registered last week.

“There are enough tables and chairs. Another positive is that the school now has wi-fi. It is central to the community, which it serves,” he said.

But the school recently issued a notice detailing the terms and conditions for hiring the school hall under strict Covid-19 protocols.

It permits meetings for up to two hours with a maximum of 30 people allowed to attend. Facilities would be rented out at R300 an hour.

It also states that a member of the school governing body (SGB) would monitor compliance to safety protocols, which Mr Koopman said they would agree to if they were given the venue.

According to regulations in the Government Gazette dated May 28, all primary school pupils and those with special education needs are due to return school and follow their usual timetable from Monday July 26.

It also states that all schools must comply with social distancing, hygiene and safety measures as stated in the Department of Basic Education’s Standard Operating Procedures to prevent and combat the spread of Covid-19.

Under the National State of Disaster, schools need to ensure that it meets the requirements of the directions and standard operating procedures for schools, taking into account Covid-19 regulations on events at the school.

This includes hiring out school facilities for social, extra or co-curricular activities and religious gatherings.

Pictured at the back, from left, Ludwe Tsetswa, Robin Williams, Nicole Davids and Zoë Bianca Damons. In front is pupil Peyton-Leigh Hattingh.

But, said Mr Koopman: “We are not accepting it. We want to expose them and demand that we use the venue for free. We are not going to look for handouts to pay them R300 per hour for the use of the school. How can they charge the very poorest of the poor?” he asked.

Unathi Booi, spokesperson for the Western Cape Education Department, said when Mr Koopman was invited to meet with the SGB regarding his request to host extra classes at the school, it had been explained to him that the school could not assist due to Covid-19 regulations.

She said under normal circumstances the onus would be on the SGB to decide who they allowed in their school for extracurricular or other activities.

“The tariff is a general fee that the school normally charges under normal circumstances.

“Mr Koopman is welcome to address this issue with the relevant district office,” she added.