Most Eastern Cape schools reopen, but mobile toilets, water tanks, PPE still needed at 490 of them

Fumigation of a school in preparation for opening under Level 3 lockdown.
Fumigation of a school in preparation for opening under Level 3 lockdown.
Photo: GCIS
  • While most schools in the Eastern Cape reopened on Monday, 490 schools are still without essentials.
  • Pupils of schools that are not ready to reopen are being accommodated by neighbouring schools.
  • The education department blamed warring contractors who are blocking their competitors from delivering personal protective equipment on time.

While 95% of schools in the Eastern Cape reopened on Monday, 490 schools have been delayed as the education department delivered mobile toilets, water tanks and personal protective equipment (PPE) on the first day of school amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Themba Kojana, superintendent general of the provincial education department, told News24 the process of delivering equipment to schools was still under way.

"By 15:00, I will be able to tell you how many schools we have managed to cover. Our workers are on the ground. But we have made sure that the pupils are not suffering. For instance, neighbouring schools are housing learners whose schools are not ready because remember this is only two grades that are returning to school. We are still disinfecting some schools while others are getting mobile toilets."

Vuyiseka Mboxela, spokesperson for the provincial education MEC, said the schools that have not reopened were in the Amathole, Alfred Nzo and OR Tambo district municipalities. She said 95% of the approximate 5 000 schools in the Eastern Cape had reopened. 

Eastern Cape chairperson of the National Association of School Governing Bodies Mongameli Peter said: "It's nothing not expected. Go to Motherwell [Port Elizabeth] now and Amathole East or Butterworth and see for yourself the dismal failure of the education department."

Meanwhile, 73 Grade 12 pupils at Dinizulu Secondary School in Dutywa are learning from the ruins of the building after the school was torched over the weekend.

The fire gutted the administration block, causing damage of R1.1 million, Eastern Cape police said.

The police are investigating a case of arson while the education department is trying to find an alternative building to house 17 teachers.

This is the latest attack targeting schools. More than 1 500 schools having been robbed, torched or vandalised across the country since the beginning of the national Covid-19 lockdown.

The 73 pupils at Dinizulu Secondary School were part of 13 000 Grade 12 and 7 pupils who were expected to return to school across the Eastern Cape on Monday.

'It's a very big setback'

Provincial police spokesperson Colonel Sibongile Soci said the fire at Dinizulu Secondary School was reported to the principal at midnight on Saturday.

Soci said: "Dutywa SAPS were informed, and rushed to the scene. Upon arrival, police realised that the administration block with all the teachers and learners' files, cleaning materials, tables, chairs and books burnt to ashes."

Mboxela said no classrooms were destroyed in the fire. She commended firefighters for their swift response and for saving the classrooms from the fire. 

She said personal protective equipment for teachers was destroyed in the blaze. Mboxela added the school management team was investigating the possibility of relocating to the neighbouring Mzimkhulu Junior Secondary School.

"They can go to the alternative adjacent school or utilise two vacant labs – which are the science laboratory and the computer lab."

READ | Eastern Cape confirms schools without PPE will not reopen on Monday

The fire crippled the work of teachers, forcing the school to start late on Monday morning. "It's a very big setback. The school was ready, teachers were at the school on Saturday making final touch-ups, augmenting the timetable and doing class allocation."

Anyone with information, can contact Dutywa police on 047 489 1333 or Crime Stop on 08600 10111. Callers can remain anonymous.

This fire came as the education department reported that the delivery of PPE was hampered by a war between small businesses. Companies contracted to transport PPE were being harassed and blocked from doing their job by rival companies who feel sidelined by the education department.

It was smooth running for some government schools in East London's suburbs. Learning and teaching resumed at the St Anne's and Southernwood primary schools when News24 visited on Monday morning, with pupils practicing social distancing and sanitising.

St Anne's principal Meg Holmes said four of her 78 Grade 7 pupils were not able to attend.

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