ECape school's ceiling fell on class during lesson

2016-12-01 12:39
A collapsing ceiling in one of the classrooms (Equal Education)

A collapsing ceiling in one of the classrooms (Equal Education)

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Pretoria – Eastern Cape pupils and teachers want Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to keep her word and get rid of mud schools, pit toilets, and collapsing ceilings.

“There is no learner who can concentrate in such a classroom,” teacher Ndedwa Gxarisa said on Wednesday. Gxarisa works at Mount Ayliff Hospital Junior Secondary School.

“Recently, while one of the teachers at my school was teaching, a ceiling fell on top of the learners. She was not sure what was happening because she was writing on the board. And when she turned back, everyone was standing on their feet, screaming.”

Gxarisa said this occurred in one of the school’s 10 classrooms, which accommodate 563 pupils.

That classroom also had exposed live electric wires, which posed a safety threat.

Since the collapse of the ceiling, the classroom had not been used, she said. This meant pupils had to learn outside and contend with the weather.

“We don’t have a free classroom. If one classroom is not working it means those learners, on that day, will have to go and sit outside and the teaching will take place outside the classroom. Those are the conditions that we live under.”

(Equal Education)

She was speaking at a briefing by NGO Equal Education outside the basic education department’s offices in Pretoria.

Equal Education said the department failed to meet a deadline set in 2013 to comply with the infrastructure law – previously known as Regulations Relating to Minimum Uniform Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure. The deadline was November 29.

The law makes it illegal for any school in South Africa not to have access to water, electricity, or toilets, and for any school to be built out of wood, mud, asbestos, or zinc.

All nine provincial departments had submitted reports to Motshekga, detailing their progress. The Eastern Cape was one of the worst performers.

Broken promises

Mary-Kendy Mangiwa, a Grade 11 pupil at Forbes Grant Senior Secondary school in King William’s Town, said conditions were so bad that rather than wait for the department to act, they took matters into their own hands.

“When you are in class and it is windy, the glass in the windows break. The window frames are banging, it is hard to concentrate. That’s how school is.”

They replaced the broken window panes with cardboard to keep the rain out, but these got soggy and fell out.

Mangiwa said safety concerns at her school were not being addressed.

“We have a very weak wire fence around our school which has holes in it. So anyone can come in as they go, Minister [Motshekga], thugs come in and out as they please. They rob us of our tablets, some of the little resources that we have to use to study.”

The school’s computer and science laboratory were destroyed in a fire in March 2014.

Department officials looked at the damage, journalists took photos and wrote stories, and that was where it ended.

“No work was done, no cleaning was done to ensure that it is safe. There was literally nothing. It’s still in ashes, till today,” she said.

There was no library, and pupils and teachers had been working together to try and create one with the little that they had. Mangiwa described this as a work in progress.

A window that the school attempted to repair (Equal Education).

Not hearing

“It’s been a long time now. We have done so many pickets and marches, but still the minister is not hearing our cries.

“This is us saying it is enough. We want our schools to be fixed. No more mud classrooms, no more pit toilets,” Mangiwa said.

Gxarisa said many parents often thought teachers cared very little about the pupils, which was not the case.

They reported the ceiling collapse to their local district office, wrote a letter and sent pictures of the damage. They were made promises which were never kept.

“It is so bad. I wish that by us coming here, something will be done. As these pictures show, this is the reality of what is happening in the Eastern Cape.”

She said most teachers loved their jobs, despite having to work under difficult conditions.

“We love it. We work tirelessly so as to try and improve the results of the Eastern Cape learners under these sad conditions, but we are trying. We are hoping that our cries will be heard.”

Read more on:    angie motshekga  |  east london  |  education

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