Pholela High falls apart as promises of repair drag on

2018-06-06 16:00
One if the buildings at Pholela High School.

One if the buildings at Pholela High School. (Supplied)

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A once top KwaZulu-Natal school has been left to go to wrack and ruin, despite promises by the provincial government to fix it.

Pholela High School in Bulwer, the alma mater of prominent ANC members Willies Mchunu and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo, is in a dilapidated state after efforts to have the school restored to its former glory appear to have fallen on deaf ears.

The walls are mouldy, with paint peeling off them, and there are exposed electrical wires.

The school also has not had running piped water and electricity for months. Pupils and staff use water collected in water tanks, and pit toilets.

Pholela, which was founded in 1937 and has 820 pupils, was a beacon of hope for black people during apartheid, producing prominent academics, government officials and professionals.

A concerned parent who spoke to The Witness said the classrooms are hazardous and they fear for their children’s safety.

“The floors inside the classrooms have gaping holes, which children could easily fall through. Most of the windows are broken and with the winter season approaching we fear they will get sick.”

The parent said the situation continued to deteriorate despite a promise by the provincial government that R16 million would be spent to fix the school.

“This school is a disaster waiting to happen,” said the parent.

“We are talking of a situation that may cost a child’s life. For the sake of our children, the department must close the school if it can’t maintain it.”

The school used to boast a hostel, science and biology laboratories and a computer room — yet today, none of these facilities are functional.

The school is on private property, owned by Saint Columbus Presbyterian Church.

The provincial Education Department is renting the property. According to the lease agreement, the government is liable for maintenance.

The lease was signed by the department in August 2010.

Keith Wimble of the Turntable Trust in Bulwer, who acts on behalf of the church, said he had been trying to get the department to fulfil its contractual agreement since 2014.

“This is one of the biggest tragedies and it shows the level of incompetence within the department,” said Wimble.

He said the church has on numerous occasions pursued meetings with the department to resolve some of these issues, but sadly it continues to renege on its obligations.

Democratic Alliance shadow education MEC Rishigen Viranna, who visited the school two weeks ago, said it was shocking that the school had been allowed to fall apart. “It is disgusting that any pupil should have to study under such circumstances, almost 25 years into liberation,” said Viranna.

KZN Education spokesperson Scelo Khuzwayo said the department was in the process of doing minor repairs at the school and that a tender for the full renovations would be advertised in September.

“Everything will not happen overnight. We want to assure the parents that renovations will begin before the end of this year,” said Khuzwayo.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  education department

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