The Democratic Alliance is deeply perturbed that a school that was supposed to open on 1 April 2011 in the extended Booysens Park area in Port Elizabeth has as yet not opened its doors for its initial intake.

A huge housing development to the North Eastern side of Booysens Park is currently being built with 5 300 households already accommodated. No provision has been made for the needs of learners. For the last two years residents have been asking constantly for schools to be built. Based on the number of households, the Department of Education should have provided four primary- and two secondary schools at the national norms of 800 households per primary and 1 000 households per secondary school.

The residents’ needs for a school were ignored for a long time, until they took to the streets in April 2010 and demanded a sc

hool. The Department of Education in the Eastern Cape capitulated under the enormous pressure exerted upon them by the residents of the area and appeals and submissions made by myself within the Portfolio Committee of Education in the Eastern Cape Legislature.

An instruction was issued in April/May 2010 by the then Superintendent-General of Education in the Eastern Cape, Prof. Harry Nengwekhulu, that funds would be made available for a temporary structure to be erected. This school would consist of 18 classrooms with a capacity of 720 learners from grade R to 7. This contract, worth R 9,998 million and for a period of eight months, was awarded in June 2010 and the works order only issued in September 2010 for the contractor to go on site. As per the contract this school was supposed to open on 1 April 2011.

The residents of this area are still not any wiser as to when this school will open its doors. The children must still travel long distances either on foot or per transportation — paid through huge financial sacrifices made by their mostly indigent parents — to schools that are outside the parameters of this huge area. Also, due to the financial position of most parents, many of their children are not in schools and are thus unconstitutionally denied access to basic free education.

This intolerable situation has been created by a Department of Education that lacks the ability to plan in advance. It is glaringly obvious that this primary school, consisting of a temporary structure, which is built on a public open space of 2,15 hectares, will not open its doors in the near future, ultimately denying our disadvantaged children the right to education, because of the following:

* No budget has been set aside for the appointment of staff;

* No furniture and Learner Teacher support material have been ordered; and

* No electricity feed to the school because of the service infra-structure around the school not fully completed.

The question that begs to be answered is whether this Department of Education really cares about the future of our children, or is it purposefully destroying education opportunities within our disadvantaged communities?

When this ANC-ruled municipality approved the plans for the housing development in the Booysens Park area, they did not consider sites for the infrastructure for schools and other essential services such as clinics, police- and fire stations.

When the Democratic Alliance becomes the ruling party in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, local government will see to it that there is proper co-ordination between the Metro and the Department of Education so that when houses are built, there is holistic planning.

Education is the foundation for opportunities. The current government is not providing these opportunities to our children in the impoverished area of Booysens Park. How can our children realize their dreams if an uncaring Department of Education keeps failing them?

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