In Aliwal North in the Eastern Cape, 940 pupils at a primary school can only be taught for four hours a day because there are insufficient classrooms. Children also have to sit in burnt classrooms that could collapse on them at any time.
This is according to Yusuf Cassim, the DA leader and member of the Eastern Cape provincial legislature who visited the Alheit van der Merwe Primary School in Hilton on an oversight visit recently, and found conditions not conducive to learning.
The school was gutted by a fire last year in May. Seven classrooms, an admin block, three storerooms, five toilets and staff rooms were damaged. As a result, the 35 female teachers and other staff members share one toilet and male staff use toilets at a nearby rugby club.
The poor infrastructure and limited resources left the school with no option but to split the pupils, with some grades attending classes in the morning, and others in the afternoons.
According to Cassim, Education MEC Fundile Gade, has been promising to provide seven temporary classrooms since January. “A large portion of the 940 pupils registered at the school are now divided between seven dilapidated prefab classrooms built in 1971 and which have long exceeded their lifespan.”
Gade’s spokesperson, Vuyiseka Mboxela, said several schools had to be rebuilt in the province. But, this would depend on the available budget.
Mboxela added that the department needed almost R8 billion for new school infrastructure but it currently only had R1.8 billion.
“Now it then tells you that the pace at which we are building schools and responding to court pronouncements is also hampered by an available budget that was cut by the National Treasury,” she said.
Mboxela said whenever there was a budget cut the education department was hardest hit, especially its infrastructure projects because of rising costs.
“We are rebuilding some schools just like those that were hit by severe hailstorms last year, we build the schools on the already shrinking budget.”
Cassim said he would discuss the matter with the MEC, and request that a new school be prioritised for the Alheit van der Merwe School.
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