Amasango Career School in Makhanda still holding out hope to secure proper infrastructure

The school operates from six shipping containers supplied by the Eastern Cape Department of Education after a 2010 court ruling that it must build a proper school.

A school providing education to a special group of children in Makhanda, in the Eastern Cape, is still holding out hope to secure proper infrastructure.

The Amasango Career School, one of three similar schools in the province, caters for street children, children who are victims of abuse or have been abandoned by their parents. The school operates from six shipping containers supplied by the Eastern Cape Department of Education after a 2010 court ruling that it must build a proper school.

Part of the court order was to supply temporary structures. However, a new school is yet to be built.

For the majority of pupils, Amasango Career school is not just a school, but a haven. The school keeps them away from the streets and drug abuse. It caters to 106 learners who have developed extreme barriers to learning due to pyscho-social factors, such as extreme poverty, neglect and abuse.

In 2010, a court order was granted against the Department of Education directing them to provide temporary school structures, ahead of building a permanent structure. They also promised to build the permanent structure before the end of 2010. However, two weeks later the department objected the court order saying their legal team was not authorised to enter into that agreement.

Learners still use shipping containers as classrooms.

Pupils at the school say they need a better school urgently.

The school is situated in an old railway station, despite it not working it has become a hideout for criminals. The dirt around the buildings is also a health hazard.

Lulama Singaphi, whose grandson attends the school, says something must be done to make schooling conducive for pupils.

“When my grandson and I speak he always says that he wishes that his school could be like the other schools, where they can have playing fields and be able to train at school like other pupils, ‘so that when we go and play against other schools we have practiced enough on our fields.’ He always says, ‘mom, I wish we could just get better playing fields, especially for us who love soccer.’”

Because of the academic challenges for some learners at the school, an occupational technical curriculum has been created. There is a class for pottery, where beautiful pieces have been done and some sold for fundraising purposes. There is also a craft side, where the learners have created gorgeous African traditional pieces, from necklaces to bracelets and even aprons.

School Principal Linda Ngamlana says space to accommodate more learners is a challenge.

“It will improve the results at the school and our efforts to make the students succeed because if we can have a proper school building, that building will cater for the skills side, occupational technical curriculum, because we will expand that. Even at the moment, we do have equipment for a salon, but we don’t (have) a classroom to put those. We have not started that one. So, the beadwork, the sowing and craftwork, we are doing that in one building and then pottery in another building. So, we really have limited space. So, as soon as we can get a proper structure, a proper school building, then we will be able to cater for such children who cannot access the normal curriculum.”

Cameron Mc Chonnachie, from the legal resource centre representing the school, says although a plot has been identified to build the school, getting Human Settlement to spur the land to Public Works remains a challenge.

“More recently, it looks like there is no other option, but to again approach the court, to direct that the department to fulfill their obligation. The Department of Human Settlement is not party to the original court proceedings. So, it’s probably necessary for us to join them in the next round of litigation. Obviously, we would really like to avoid going back to court to enforce something, which is such a clear breach of the children’s rights to education and to learn in an environment with dignity. We are hoping that the Department of Education will come to their senses and make the land available.”

Eastern Cape Department of Education Spokesperson Loyiso Pulumani says they are attending to the matter.

“The CMC office in Makhanda has had a meeting with the SB and local community and they are trying to work as speedily as possible to find a solution to this matter, so that indeed the land can be transferred formally to the school so that we can take it from there.”

Learners and teachers at the school are hopeful that the 10-year battle for basic human rights, will come to an end.