FOREIGN PUPILS STAY AWAY

The Times, 6 June 2008

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Attendance at Johannesburg’s Sacred Heart College’s school for immigrants has dropped by almost 40 percent since the xenophobic violence started four weeks ago. Having recognised the need for a school for foreign children in the country, SHC started the school in March. The school has 108 registered children and six teachers who come from 11 African countries, including Zimbabwe, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria. “The challenge we are facing now is transport and safety. “Parents don’t feel safe walking their children to school,” said headmaster Colin Northmore. A grade R teacher, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said her class has 25 children, but now only 12 attend classes. “Some people are scared to even leave their homes,” the teacher said. The school provides a meal and uniforms for the children, and has a budget of more than R800000 for the year. “We had a meeting with the department of education to try and work out a way for the children to be placed in a proper schooling system,” said Northmore. Meanwhile, Zimbabwean Partson Madzimu has set up a makeshift school in a bus. The bus vehicle was used to transport refugees to a newly set up refugee camp at Rand Airport, near Germiston in Gauteng. With the help of six qualified teachers, Madzimu has spent each day since the start of the xenophobic violence teaching 76 pupils, trying to bring some order into the lives of young learners. They range from those who attend range from pre-school to grade 11s. The top section of the double decker bus is used as a classroom, and takes up two grades at a time, while pupils in other grades are kept busy outside with other activities such as physical education, poetry and drama. Madzimu says they are trying to keep the kids from being restless and they have even encouraged them to compile diaries and drawings about their experiences during the violence as a way of letting them deal with the situation in a creative manner. “We are hoping that a tent will be assigned as a school to ease the overcrowding, but for now the bus will do just fine,” said Madzimu.