Murky, muddy and void of schools as provincial government can’t fulfil its promise

MEC Mandla Makupula (right) said that mud schools would only be eradicated by 2022. Picture: Die Burger
MEC Mandla Makupula (right) said that mud schools would only be eradicated by 2022. Picture: Die Burger

At least 436 mud schools are still in use in the Eastern Cape, and education MEC Mandla Makupula says the provincial government can’t fulfil its promise to get rid of them all in a year.

In response to a question in the legislature by DA education spokesperson Edmund van Vuuren, Makupula conceded that eradicating mud schools, which was supposed to have been completed this year, would only be done by 2022 – that is if the government could afford it.

Some 367 of the mud schools were to be rebuilt through Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga’s Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (Asidi) programme, while 69 were the responsibility of the province through a conditional grant.

Makupula said of the 69 schools, 30 were candidates for merging with other institutions or “rationalisation”, eight had been “addressed”, 20 were on the 2018/19 project list, and 11 would be rebuilt before 2022.

Van Vuuren said the provincial education department had systemic issues, with underskilled, underpaid staff. This, he said, was why it could not spend R530 million of its infrastructure grant money in 2016, which was returned to national Treasury.

“But last year [the department] spent 100% of its infrastructure budget, but only achieved 30% of the projects. How is that possible?” he asked.

Asked similar questions this week to those Van Vuuren asked Makupula last week, officials bizarrely provided different answers. Their figures did not add up either.

Eastern Cape education spokesperson Mali Mtima said he could not comment on Makupula’s reply, but said his responses were based on the information provided to him by the department’s own infrastructure section.

Mtima said the department needed R62 billion to eradicate all mud schools, while Makupula said it only needed R16.9 billion.

While Mtima claimed that 49 schools were completed and 38 remained, Makupula spoke of only 69 mud schools the province had to rebuild. Mtima also claimed that 148 schools were completed and 149 still needed construction through the Asidi programme, but Makupula said the programme was responsible for a total of 367 schools. Instead of a 2022 deadline for eradicating all mud schools, Mtima said the deadline “per regulation is 2030”. He said the department has a R1.4 billion budget for that purpose.

Commenting on the discrepancies, Mtima insisted the figures he provided “are from our infrastructure section” and a “true reflection of what is out there”.

“If the numbers contradict, it means it is the infrastructure section of our department contradicting the MEC,” he said.

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July 2020

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