EASTERN Cape’s embattled Department of Education has failed its first test in eradicating mud schools, by missing a court deadline in respect of seven schools in the Libode area.

The Dispatch reported in February that national and provincial education departments were ordered by the Bhisho High Court to fix the seven dilapidated schools – Nomandla, Tembeni, Madwaleni, Sidanda, Nkonkoni, Maphindela and Sompa senior primary schools.

A total of R8.2 billion was committed to fix schools throughout South Africa by 2014, of which the Eastern Cape was given the largest slice – R6.36bn.

The seven mud schools were backed in their court action by the Centre for Child Law and the Legal Resources Centre.

An agreement, signed by the schools and department on February 4, detailed how the money would be divided up. It also laid down strict time frames to which the Department of Education should adhere.

According to the agreement, of which the Daily Dispatch has a copy, the department had to:

Ensure that service providers were appointed by March 31;

Ensure service providers started work by May 31; and

Take all reasonable steps to ensure service providers finish new structures at the seven schools by May 1, 2012.

In terms of temporary measures, the schools were to be given mobile classrooms, water tanks and enough desks and chairs by March 31.

The Dispatch last Saturday accompanied DA MP Wilmot James and MPL Edmund van Vuuren to visit three of the seven mud schools. At each of them:

There were only four temporary classrooms; There were no water tanks; Although all three schools had been fenced, there was no sign of building contractors or any work being done on site; and

No furniture was delivered.

Madwaleni Senior Primary, with 355 pupils, has three mud structures built by the community more than 30 years ago. The new temporary structures cannot accommodate all the pupils, so the school continues using mud rondavels that are in danger of collapsing.

van Vuuren said: “It is a disgrace. The existing toilets are inadequate for all the pupils. There is rubble at Madwaleni and there are wires from the fencing left lying around at Nkonkoni.”

James said the department was in contempt of court. “This is a clear violation of the agreement. They should have started building at the end of May and we have seen this weekend that they have not done that. The court will have to be contacted again,” James said.

Ntombudomu Jiba, of the building committee at Sompa Senior Primary School, said only four temporary structures had been erected.

“We are disappointed with the department. Their delivery is very slow,” she said yesterday.

The school was also still using its mud structures to accommodate pupils who do not fit into the temporary classrooms.

The principal of Maphindela Senior Primary, Fezile Mdokwana, said while the situation was bad at his school, they welcomed the little progress that had been made so far.

“We do not have water tanks, furniture or a fence, but we are glad that there is at least some implementation of the court order. All we can do now is wait.

“The temporary structures will not be enough for all the learners, so they will be used by those who were taught outside,” he said.

Tembeni Senior Primary teacher Nosipho Madubela yesterday told the Dispatch temporary structures were still being erected.

“Not all of the pupils will be accommodated in the temporary structures.

“This hurts us because it is as if the department isolates these children, as if they are not worthy of basic education,” she said.

Provincial Education spokesperson Loyiso Pulumani said the temporary structures were complete at all the schools, as well as at a further 10 schools. Completion of the new buildings would run over a period of three years, he added.

Pulumani said all the schools on the infrastructure list would be visited. — siyab@dispatch.co.za, additional reporting by Vuvu Vena MINISTER of Rural Development Land Reform Gugile Nkwinti said the State risks being “cleaned out” if white commercial farmers who agreed to sell their land in restitution claims demand payment of a collective debt of R12.2 billion.

Nkwinti said only the “goodwill” of the white farmers, who have not yet demanded government pays them out, stands between the government and debtor’s court.

Speaking in a debate on land reform at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, Nkwinti said government owed white farmers a collective R12.2bn for restitution claims against their land by black communities.

He said the restitution model contributed to the problem.

Once a land claim was lodged, assessed and validated, it was published in the Government Gazette, effectively ending further development of the land. The government then made an offer to the landowner to acquire the land on behalf of the community.

“Government doesn’t have money (but) you make an offer and it is accepted. If tomorrow we were to be taken to court, we’d be cleaned out. We have to tell the nation that there is a problem because the model has been wrong. We have to change it, it doesn’t work.

“We also have not implemented it properly.

“It’s just that South Africans are good citizens, including the farm owners we always attack – they have been very, very understanding.

“If they were to take us to court tomorrow and say ‘pay us the money’, where would we get R12.2bn?”

Nkwinti said the current land reform budget of R2bn “effectively means we are paying backwards and not forwards”.

“That’s partly why we can’t meet the target of redistributing 30 percent of commercial farmland by 2014.”

Nkwinti, whose honesty during the debate about government’s difficulties in addressing land reform was widely welcomed by participants, said government would no longer chase a target for redistribution of land.

It would continue to work to “deracialise” the rural economy; ensure democratic and equitable allocation of land across race, class and gender divisions; and promote “sustained production discipline to ensure food security”.

He said only 15% of the 37 000 commercial farmers currently produced food for the country.

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