#UnrestSA: Budget cuts hamper KwaZulu-Natal education dept's ability to fix vandalised schools

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  • The KwaZulu-Natal education department says it does not have the money to fix schools that have been damaged in recent riots in the province.
  • Provincial education department spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi says 52 education institutions have been affected. 
  • Some were looted, some were vandalised and others were torched. 

Riots that broke out in KwaZulu-Natal last week left 52 education facilities damaged, but it's unlikely that they will be repaired any time soon due to budget constraints.

Provincial education department spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said two of the 52 affected institutions were education centres and two were circuit offices.

Mahlambi said the department did not assess the extent of the damage.

"People (officials) did not have enough petrol, and so we could not do that assessment last week. We hope this week, as things are starting to die down in terms of the unrest, we will then be able to go to schools and make that determination," Mahlambi said. 

READ |#UnrestSA: Nearly 100 trucks an hour stream into KwaZulu-Natal as N3 reopens

"But even if it were to cost us R10, we don't have that R10. The reason is that when we started this financial year, we had budget cuts of over R6.2 billion to the normal allocation that we... get, which puts strain on our [fiscus]," Mahlambi added. 

He said that due to the budget cuts, the department had to scale down some programmes it had planned for the year, including repairs at schools affected by a storm in 2019 and those that were vandalised during the Covid-19 Level 5 lockdown last year.

"We had not finished attending those challenges, and now there is this new financial burden that comes on our shoulders - the very same tired shoulders - which collapses us all together in terms of how we move forward," the spokesperson said.

Durban was the area that was affected the most, Mahlambi said. 

Scaling down programmes

Schools were expected to reopen on Monday, 26 July, after they closed to prevent the spread of Covid-19 amid the country's third wave of infections.

Mahlambi said the department did not discuss what would happen to affected schools, but said some would have to be provided with mobile classrooms. 

"We will have a problem moving forward in terms of us having to accommodate those schools that are directly affected. I don't want to speculate [on] what the decision is going to be, but... [we will] have to find a way of attending to [it], which will mean... that the very same limited programmes that we had toned down, we are going to go and sit down and further tone them down."

ALSO READ | #UnrestSA: Thousands of looted bullets spread across KwaZulu-Natal

The spokesperson said the this would disturb teaching and learning.

Education sector vaccinations

Meanwhile, the education sector vaccination rollout in the province was also affected by the riots, Mahlambi said.

"Our educators will now go as ordinary citizens [to vaccination sites]".

Mahlambi said the province received 127 000 doses and managed to use about 113 000. 

The riots also spread to Gauteng but the education department in that province said it had not experienced any vandalism. 

"We are accordingly preparing for the reopening of our schools for the third term on 26 July 2021 as announced by President [Cyril Ramaphosa]," spokesperson Steve Mabona said.

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