‘Dept let pupils down’

2018-01-30 13:30
One of the dilapidated mobile classrooms being used by pupils.

One of the dilapidated mobile classrooms being used by pupils. (File)

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Parents of pupils who attend Umsi­linga Primary School near Copesville continued their protest action against what they say are deplorable conditions at the school on Monday. The school remains closed.

The protest, which began last Monday, was fuelled by a number of issues including the dilapidated mobile classrooms that are being used by pupils. During the protest last week, parents padlocked the school gate, vowing not to send their children back to the school until the KZN Education Department allowed pupils and teachers to be relocated to the new school building.

Building started at the school in 2011 and is yet to be completed.

On Monday, a teacher at the school told The Witness that officials from the Education Department had made a promise last week to meet with the implementing agent, but nobody from the department arrived for the meeting.

“None of the pupils have arrived for classes. Parents have told their children to remain at home until this matter has been resolved,” said the teacher.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance has urged KZN Education MEC Mthandeni Dlungwane to immediately intervene to defuse the ongoing tense situation at the school.

DA spokesperson for education Rishigen Viranna said an oversight visit to the school on Friday revealed serious issues, including extreme apathy on the part of the KZN Education Department.

Viranna said during the visit, the DA established that although the new school building was about 95% complete, the department’s implementing agent had failed to pay the contractor for the past eight months.

This was confirmed by the owner of the contracted company, Gonal Construction CC, who said there has been a delay with payments.

“There is always a delay on payments, it’s nothing new. There is nothing more we can do and we hope the department can get back to us soon so we can finish the construction,” said the owner, who declined to be named.

Viranna claimed that the Education Department had also not submitted a rezoning application to Msunduzi Municipality for utilities to be connected, resulting in the new building having no water and electricity.

He said it was shocking that no one from the department had met with the community to discuss their concerns.

“This smacks of the worst kind of lethargy and incompetence. Surely there can be nothing more important than ensuring that pupils are at school and that teaching is taking place,” added Viranna.

KZN Education spokesperson Kwazi Mthethwa said the department was trying to intervene.

“We urge parents to raise their issues with the department and not resort to violent protests. By locking the school gate they are victimising pupils who have a constitutional right to learn,” said Mthethwa.

He declined to comment on why the contractor had not been paid and why the department had not submitted a rezoning application to Msunduzi Municipality.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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