While an investigation is underway to determine the cause of a fire that destroyed part of the hostel at the Dr Blok Secondary School in Heidedal, Bloemfontein, there seems to be consensus that safety measures were neglected.
Tate Makgoe, the Free State MEC for Education, pointed out the importance of the constant monitoring and evaluation of safety measures at schools to prevent reoccurrence of the incident.
He visited the Dr Blok Secondary School on Monday (14/01) to assess damage caused by fire.
The fire reportedly started at about 18:30 on Friday (11/01), burning down the house of the hostel’s caretaker and the administration area of the hostel.
No life was lost due to fire, of which the cause is still unknown.
Makgoe has expressed dissatisfaction that the cause of fire had not been established.
“This is one area that I’m unhappy with. I was told the cause of fire had not been established. We still do not know if the fire was caused by a faulty electrical appliance. We will make it public what started the fire once we have completed investigation,” said Makgoe.
An electrical cable was reportedly stolen sometime last year. However, Makgoe said he would not blame criminality for the fire.
“There was no one in the house when the fire started in one of the bedrooms. The fact is that the building is old and dilapidated. The department’s immediate responsibility is to change the conditions for the better.”
He said only nine children were affected, and they had been treated for smoke inhalation at a local hospital.
The hostel accommodates 135 learners: 66 girls and 69 boys. Some of the learners attend the Heide Primary School.
A fire wall prevented the fire from destroying the entire hostel facility.
“This is a disaster; we must be thankful to God that no one died,” said Makgoe.
“The problem we have as the Department of Education is oversight to ensure safety measures at schools. We must decisively deal with infrastructure problems and we will prioritise Dr Blok as part of addressing infrastructure problems to prevent this from happening at any school in the Free State. The decision is to use mud and bricks to rebuild the hostel as appose to asbestos material.”
As a matter of urgency, he says a contractor has already been appointed to do the work.
“The contractor will be on site until completion of the work. Engineers and quantity surveyors are already at the school.
“We have agreed on six weeks with the contractor to complete the work of revamping the hostel so that all learners can return to the hostel,” said Makgoe.