Collapsing mud school a danger

Grade 10 pupil Inga Gogela wants to be a doctor some day. She says it’s been difficult getting an education. Picture: Lubabalo Ngcukana
Grade 10 pupil Inga Gogela wants to be a doctor some day. She says it’s been difficult getting an education. Picture: Lubabalo Ngcukana

Inga Gogela can’t wait to move into the new buildings the Eastern Cape education department is constructing to replace the mud classrooms at her current school. The Grade 10 pupil learns in a dilapidated mud structure at Ntsizwa Senior Secondary School, 25km from Mount Ayliff, which has 150 pupils.

She says the classrooms pose a serious danger to pupils and teachers and hopes they will hold long enough for the department to complete the new school. Gogela (18) is the youngest of four siblings and wants to be a doctor so she can help the many sickly old people in her village, called Lesotho, in Mount Ayliff.

She has had to persevere in difficult conditions to get her education. The school consists of two blocks. One is built of facebrick and has five classrooms. It is the only properly built unit in the school and at least two of the five rooms have been converted into an administration office and a staffroom.

The second block is an old and decrepit structure which local residents built at least three decades ago. It has four classrooms. Two semi-functional classrooms are used for Grades 10A and 10B. The third is used as a kitchen. One is not used because of its poor state and it has been taken over by wandering village goats and sheep.

Gogela and the other Grade 10 pupils are taught in the mud block. Sticks protrude from the classroom walls like the ribcage of a malnourished greyhound. Storms have battered the mud walls. Gaping holes in them serve as ventilation on hot summer days, but are a curse on windy, rainy days and in winter.

Most doors and windows are broken and desks are used as makeshift doors in other classrooms. There are no ceiling boards and the floors are full of holes.

When it rains we get wet, even though we’re inside the classroom, because the roof leaks all over. When it’s windy you can feel the structure moving, it is scary.
Grade 10 pupil Inga Gogela

The school, including the facebrick block, has no electricity, except the one classroom that’s used as an administration office.

The school also has no principal or deputy and is run by a caretaker principal, chosen from among the only four permanent teachers.

When City Press visited the school on Thursday, construction workers were hard at work on the new structure. Gogela and her peers say they are impressed by the state-of-the-art buildings across the street.

Gogela says she cannot wait to move into the new building. “This is my first year at this school and I was shocked to find such old classrooms. I am very sad about this.

“When it rains we get wet, even though we’re inside the classroom, because the roof leaks all over.

“When it’s windy you can feel the structure moving, it is scary. Our lives are at risk,” she says. She plans to study hard and fulfil her goal of becoming a doctor to help build her family a big house.

The mud classrooms are collapsing at Ntsizwa Senior Secondary School in Mount Ayliff. Picture: Lubabalo Ngcukana

Both her parents are unemployed and cannot afford to send her to a better school. They survive on social grants.

One of the teachers at the school says the school faces many challenges.

They include the fact that 70% of their textbooks have not been supplied and a lack of teachers. He said they’re all waiting for the new school. “The new school will include a science and a computer laboratory and a library.

The department could have given us temporary classrooms while we are waiting for the new school to be completed,” he said. He blames the environment for the pupils’ poor performance, saying that they fear the classrooms could collapse on them. “We live in hope and prayer. It’s been many years since the school has been like this.”

Last year’s matrics got a 22.4% pass rate, which is regarded as an improvement from 12.5% in 2016. Another teacher said grades 8 and 9 will be added once in the new school is up and running. At present, the school caters for grades 10, 11 and 12.

Despite promising to respond to questions City Press sent early last week, Malibongwe Mtima, the Eastern Cape education department spokesperson, failed to do so before going to print.

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July 2020

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