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WC education officials 'held hostage'

Some desperate parents from Khayelitsha won’t let education officials leave a meeting.

Western Cape Education MEC Donald Grant. Picture: Chanel September/EWN

CAPE TOWN - Western Cape Education MEC Donald Grant on Thursday said department officials who are apparently being held hostage by disgruntled Khayelitsha parents are safe.

Residents from the Zwelitsha informal settlement have accused the department of failing to build a school in the area since 2010.

They claim about 400 children have not been placed for this academic year.

On Thursday, they threatened to prevent officials from leaving the school hall if they did not receive satisfactory answers.

Both parties have been in a meeting behind closed doors all afternoon.

Grant says the officials have been prevented from leaving the discussions.

"As for the so-called hostage situation, we've been in touch with our district director, who is part of that group. We've been informed that the South African Police Service (SAPS) is there and they are safe."

The Education Department says it has never made any promise to build a school in the area.

Department spokesperson Paddy Atwell says, "There's an impression that's being created that the department had promised to build a school for the start of this year.

"In fact, that's not the case at all. The department is aware of the need of a school in the area. The department is planning to build a school as part of our infrastructure [plan] for the next three years."

Meanwhile, a Bonnievale councillor said the provincial Education Department has helped the community enrol almost all the high school learners in the area who had not been placed for 2013.

At the start of the week, around 60 learners had not been placed.

The department helped transfer some of them to schools in neighbouring Ashton and Robertson, while a few were lucky enough to be placed at the local Bonnivale High School.

Councillor Errol Vollenhoven said they now need to find space for only four more pupils.

"The problem is that there was not enough space for those 60 kids at the high school in Bonnievale."

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