EC TORNADO SEASON: DEPARTMENT NEEDS DEDICATED FUND AND TASK TEAM FOR STORM DAMAGED SCHOOLS

It’s been a year since 114 schools in the rural areas of Transkei were damaged by storms but only 52 have been repaired so far. It is inconceivable that learners and educators in the other 62 wrecked schools are forced to brave the elements of nature.

Tornados and heavy storms are an annual phenomenon from November to February in the former Transkei-area. Currently there is no dedicated fund to repair storm damaged schools.

What is needed are policies and procedures to manage this yearly occurrence. The Department must set up a task team to monitor these natural disasters. Furthermore, an amount should be ring fenced within a disaster management system located in the department, for storm damaged schools.

The Department has claimed in meetings with the Portfolio Committee on Education that there is a lack of funds to repair these schools. But at the end of the last financial year they had to return to the treasury some R443 million of the Infrastructure Conditional Grant, because it went unspent. The department’s excuses do not hold water.

Our learners are human beings and should be treated as such. Do not expose them to a life-threatening and unsafe environment. Get these schools fixed.

I have been reliably informed that the department has set aside R125 million for schools damaged by tornados in the current financial year. This is a once off amount.

The department has given the portfolio committee on education an undertaking that the other 62 schools will be repaired and refurbished in December 2011. We are waiting with bated breath to see whether these promises will materialise.

The litmus test for the department will be how it approaches these seasonal occurrences in the future.