Pupils at an Eastern Cape school learn under trees, while others are crammed into prefabs.
Welcome to Myolwa Senior Primary in KwaNyathi village, Lusikisiki, which does not have a single properly built classroom and relies on four prefabs that cannot accommodate the entire school of pupils from Grade R to Grade 7.
Because of this some children are forced to learn under trees while others are crammed up to five to a desk, with two grades packed into one classroom.
Despite all its other problems, the school’s governing body claims the department spent R4.8 million on pit latrines.
“Something is dodgy about these toilets. Its only nine pit latrine toilets – five for the girls and four for the boys – and you say that costs R4.8 million? That is impossible,” said school governing body chairperson Samkelo Gqirhana.
Gqirhana said the school governing body was informed of the whopping price tag after an investigation in August by officials who visited the school wanting to find out why they cost so much.
An inspector from the office of the superintendent-general and a private investigator visited the school.
But the toilets were left incomplete, with some holes left open and posing a danger to pupils.
“It is strange that the department prioritised building toilets first when there is not a single classroom. Where are our children suppose to learn? Inside toilets?” Gqirhana asked.
On a visit to the school, City Press found:
. 65 children in one Grade R class;
. 87 children crammed into one Grade 1 classroom;
. 108 pupils – 70 Grade 2s and 38 Grade 3s – sharing a single classroom;
. 97 pupils – 65 Grade 4s and 32 Grade 5s – sharing one classroom; and
. 51 pupils – 31 Grade 6s and 20 Grade 7s – sharing a class.
Gqirhana said the construction company was last at the school in November and left behind large open and uncovered holes.
Now teachers have to monitor the toilet block constantly to ensure children don’t play near them.
For the past seven years, he said, they had been knocking on doors – at the district education offices in Lusikisiki and provincial headquarters in Zwelitsha – begging for help.
“We have been promised many times that the school will be built but nothing has come of it. This is really disappointing and embarrassing because this is my own government that is doing this to us. It’s the government of my own organisation, the ANC which has now deserted us,” he said.
The school was built by the community in 2012. Now they are asking residents, who survive on social grants, to help build some more.
“We have asked parents to contribute five blocks of concrete bricks per child. That means, because I have four children at the school I would have to contribute 20 blocks. Some parents had already done so,” Gqirhana said, adding that they have asked parents to contribute R100 to pay the builders for two classrooms.
But they need far more than that.
Their existing prefabs leak when it rains. The desks are old and broken and there are too few chairs.
Grade Rs as young as four learn in a dangerous cracked mud structure. Another mud structure previously used as a classroom collapsed.
The administration block is a two-room flat built by the community. One of the rooms is the principal’s office and the other serves as a staff room.
Last week pupils from Grade R to Grade 4 shared space under a tree, upon which leans a small blackboard.
Some children stood and others sat on the ground because there were too few chairs.
Grade R pupil Maliphathwe Ntilili (4) was standing because he had no chair on which to sit.
He said he would like the government to build a school and give him a chair so he can sit during class.
Asked what he wanted to become when he finished school, he smiled and said: “I want to be a policeman.”
Teachers said they were sometimes forced to split the combined grades and put others under the trees when one grade wrote a test.
And, despite the horrific conditions, children walked 6km a day to attend the school.
Provincial education spokesperson Loyiso Pulumani said the school will be built as soon as funding becomes available.
“They are definitely not under a tree but in a community built structure which will be demolished upon delivery of additional prefabs allocated to an Implementing Agent currently,” he said.
Pulumani also said 23 toilets would be built in all, but the first block of nine has been completed.
“The remainder got delayed initially due to the builders’ holiday and subsequently contractual challenges the contractor experienced,” he said.
“He has since been placed on terms to perform or otherwise face termination. All the toilets will cost R2.7 million. The R4 million includes repairs to existing buildings and other contingent allowances.”
Pulumani said Myolwa was a classic example of the infrastructure backlog in his province, and there was a newly-built school less than 5km away that is underutilised.
But Gqirhana was adamant they were told the toilets cost R4.8 million.
“We did not just wake up and come up with the figure.”
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