Pupils battling to complete classrooms

2013-07-21 06:00

Pupils at the Nkabane Combined School outside Newcastle are still battling to complete two new classrooms two years after the contractor paid to do the job skipped town.

And now attempts by the School Governing Body (SGB) to get help from the KwaZulu-Natal education department and the Amajuba District Municipality – which paid the roofing contractor in 2011 – have hit a brick wall.

Teachers and SGB members say the school, built by a community forcibly removed and relocated to the area in the 1980s was incorrectly classified by the department, resulting in less funding than it deserves because of the low income of most parents.

The problems do not end there. The two classrooms the community built were supposed to have been roofed by Yami Yakho Yethu Trading and Projects through a grant from the Amajuba District. But the new ANC-led council now claims the money was allocated illegally and will not either follow up on the contractor or give the 800-pupil school a new grant.

Correspondence between the SGB, the municipality and the department show that the contractor started work in February 2011, after being paid to roof the two classrooms late in 2010.

One letter, dated November 4 2011, states that the contractor absconded that July.

“We have observed that very little has been done, i.e. removing of window frames and replacing them and putting up of timber which has been damaged by heavy rains and snow as this has long been erected. People who have been working were last seen in the third week of July 2011,” it states.

“We have followed all the proper channels but have got nowhere,” said SGB chairperson Jabulani Mahlangu. “The department says it can’t help us. The municipality is not willing any more because of politics. We were given the money for roofing by the old council and the new one is refusing to assist. This is politics, but it is our children and grandchildren who are suffering.”

When City Press visited Nkabane, three grades were being taught in a single, overcrowded classroom. Only half of the classrooms had electricity, while a foul stench emanated from the toilet blocks that have no running water with which to flush the toilets. Two classrooms with no roofs stand unused and are full of rubble after the supports rotted away.

The adjoining classrooms also have leaky roofs because the contractor removed the seals between classrooms.

Teachers were unwilling to speak to City Press for fear of losing their jobs.

Education department spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi failed to respond to written questions.

Amajuba municipal manager Linda Africa said the municipality was investigating the original grant and would not help the school any further.

Africa said the contract was one of several awarded during the previous council’s term bypassing proper procurement procedures.

They were termed as irregular expenditure in the council’s June 2011 financial statement.

The council was still deciding what action to take.

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