Eight community non-profit organisations that have been using an abandoned school in Motherwell are protesting an eviction notice from the Education Department.
Department officials received a hostile reception when they arrived at Jabavu High School on the corner of Chalumna and Dabadaba streets with ward 60 councillor Leonard Dano on Wednesday.
The head of the Zwartkops Conservancy’s ZC Masazi project, environmental educator Wandisile Lukwe, said they had no problem with having to move but had been assured they would be given notice and alternative premises would be found for them
“We spent R67,000 renovating the toilets which were vandalised and putting in electricity and water pipes. What about our investment and where and how are we going to carry on our work?
“We are going nowhere,” Lukwe said.
His view was echoed by Julia Ndwayana, project manager of the Lathithaa Development Centre.
“They say they want to move kids here from another Missionvale school which is full. Why not use one of the many other abandoned schools between there and here?
“The reason is they have been vandalised while we have kept this one safe and have spent money fixing it up. That is why they want it back,” she said.
Lukwe said his ZC Masazi project had, since 2015, been using three of classrooms at Jabavu to run the project in 12 schools in Motherwell and several more in Kwazakhele.
The “Masazi Buddies” enrolled in the project learned about the environment, recycling and pollution and enjoyed camps at the school most holidays, he explained.
“We work on eco-campaigns in partnership with the departments of the environment, water affairs and agriculture.
“For example, February 2 is World Wetland Day, so we will be creating awareness around that event. We also have plans for food gardens in the future,” he said.
“We also try to support the community more generally. For instance, last year we organised some teachers to come and help local matric pupils with their preparation.”
Ngwenyana said Lathithaa worked with up to 120 Motherwell-Kwazakhele youths between seven and 17 years old who had learning difficulties.
“These are kids who do not manage at school and who may otherwise end up on the streets where they are vulnerable to crime.
“We teach them to work with basic numbers and words in English and isiXhosa.”
Nikiwe Nangu, assistant chairperson of the Masonwabe Elderly Group said they had been let down by councillor Dano.
“He assured us that we would be relocated. Now he is ignoring us. We have a class full of sewing machines and other equipment and nowhere to go,” Nangu said.
Masonwabe works with 33 elderly people who are trained in sewing and beadwork, she said.
“The aim is to keep our elderly involved and active. We are funded by the Department of Social Development but also sell the clothes we make. Our participants do exercises and visit and clean the homes of other elderly people who are also disabled.”
George Lukwe, chief education specialist at the department’s Nelson Mandela Bay office, said the intention was to establish Lenwabo Special School in the old Jabavu building. Lenwabo has been sharing premises with the Reuben Birin School for Hearing Impaired in Missionvale.
It was untrue that no notice had been given, he said.
“We made it clear at a meeting with the organisations in July last year that they would need to vacate by February 4. They are moving the goalposts.”
He said it was not true that the department was focusing on Jabavu to install the relocated Lenwabo pupils simply because it had been renovated by the organisations.
“The renovations were not approved. They should have left it like it was.”
Dano could not be reached for comment.