'Government’s empty promises’

2009-03-01 00:00

“EMPTY promises and a shameful election campaign” is how teachers at McCarthy Primary School in Tamboville, near Glenwood, are starting to view a 2004 visit from their commander in chief, the KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC, who promised to build them a school.

The school is made up of over 600 pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, many of whom are Aids orphans and victims of abuse.

Teachers conduct classes in rundown, muddy, overcrowded and windowless tin-classrooms.

They stand on tables to teach when it rains, gumboots have become part of their uniform, and many have come to rely on chronic medication.

Thokozani Zuma, who has been teaching at the school since 2003, said the current education curriculum is underpinned with a message of inclusivity, social justice, human rights and a healthy environment.

But she said everything at their school currently goes against this.

Instead, teachers and pupils are made to work in a pig sty.

“We are constantly sick. Some teachers have developed sinus problems, chest and back pains … We have become a joke around here. People always ask us if this is [a] government school and if we are really qualified,” Zuma said.

Zuma first approached former president Thabo Mbeki about the school’s abnormal learning conditions in 2004 while he was on the campaign trail in Pietermaritzburg.

Soon Gabriel Ndabandaba, the then acting MEC of Education, was sent by Mbeki to assess the situation, with the media in tow.

Ndabandaba later handed over the matter to the newly-appointed Ina Cronjé, who also visited the school with the parting words: “I want daka [cement] to be mixed here very soon.”

At that time, Cronjé had called for an urgent attempt to replace all tin schools with safe, solid structures and McCarthy School was on the list.

But in 2009, after big promises, nothing has changed.

Zuma said the school has since lost out on a lot of sponsorships.

“We feel let down. Mbeki has come out of office and it is nearly the MEC’s end of term and nothing has happened. All the contractor did was dig and redig holes.

“I can’t understand why they [Education Department] would let money go to waste like that … coming from those backgrounds, these children should not have to deal with this at school as well. “

The Witness reported at the time that the Gift of the Givers offered to pay R100 000 towards rebuilding the school, but Zuma said the department insisted that it would take responsibility for the rebuilding.

Varsity College was among other sponsors who came forward and offered the school 50 computers, but the college said it would not hand over the computers until the school had new and secure facilities. But now the principal who had promised the computers has left, said Zuma.

Education Department spokeswoman, Mbali Thusi, said a contractor was awarded the tender to rebuild the school, but had encountered some problems.

She said a new contractor has been appointed and they are expected on site today.

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