Principal says proposal to close Mahlasela causes panic

Odwa Funeka

he principal at the beleaguered Benjamin Mahlasela High School says a proposal to have his school closed down and, instead, transformed into a special school is "dangerous" for both the school and the future of its learners.


"This proposal is very dangerous because it will decrease the number of learners and cause panic at the same time,” said principal Sandile Dude. Dude was responding to a proposal by the Save Our Schools and Community (Sosac) campaign which is calling for the Grahamstown community to petition education MEC Mandla Makhuphula to have the Joza school closed down. Sosac suggests that the school be turned into a special school of academic excellence and Further Education and Training.


Dude says that they have distributed application forms to other schools for learners to apply so that they can improve the number of learners. “We have sent application forms to other schools and some of them have been returned already”, he explained. “We have also gone to the community and churches around here to encourage parents to send their kids to our school.”


Currently there are 13 teachers and a grand total of 75 learners in the school and, seven of whom wrote the recent matric exams. “The school is trying to recruit new learners to prevent being shut down, but the reality is that, even the kids they do recruit are usually the ones who have been rejected by other high schools and many of them have special academic needs which the school cannot meet,” said Nomalanga Mkhize, an Education Activist from Sosac.


The proposed school would have two main components, a high school with a special focus on academic excellence and a skills training school for carpentry, electricity, plumbing and other fields. Sosac also proposes that the name Benjamin Mahlasela should be kept to honour the man's legacy as a teacher of many black citizens, including Nelson Mandela. “Legally this school should have been closed down ages ago on account of its unviability in terms of numbers,” added Mkhize.


Dude, however, said that Sosac failed to go to the school and speak to its staff members and the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu). On the other hand, Mkhize said their organisation focuses on learners and the community but that they would also like to hear from staff members and Sadtu.
“We hope that all stakeholders like Sadtu will give their own views on how to improve and best use the Mahlasela facility which is currently underused,” she added.


Meanwhile, Gadra Matric School principal Brian Fargher squashed the rumours that he wants to move his school to the premises which are occupied by Benjamin Mahlasela High School. “We are currently looking for new premises but that is not an emergency, and it can be any premises”, added Fargher.

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