BCM learners share cramped school ground as project stalls

Issued by Yusuf Cassim, MPL
Shadow MEC for Education

Hundreds of young learners from Laerskool Grens in Arcadia, Buffalo City are being crammed into overcrowded classrooms, because work on the new school they were promised four years ago has ground to a halt.

This situation has been further exacerbated as the Department has annexed half of the current school grounds for the Buffalo City Inner City School, which is now also operating off the same premises.

Effectively, due to the bureaucratic bungling of an inept Education Department, there are now two schools trying to operate from one premises that was already too small.

Under Covid-19 conditions, this becomes life threatening. Our learners deserve access to safe and dignified learning conditions, which one would expect from a capable state.

This came to light following an oversight inspection at the school last week, where I was accompanied by Buffalo City Coastal Constituency Leader, Chantel King and DA BCM councillors.

The 83-year-old Laerskool Grens was supposed to have been relocated to newly built facilities near the Grens High School, in Baysville, in June last year but the project has been plagued by delays and uncertainty due to overall mismanagement and frequent non-payment.

The then vacated property would be used by the Buffalo City Inner City School.

In December last year, Grens Primary agreed to the Department’s request for Buffalo City Inner City School the to take over around half of its current premises so long, as the Department had committed to:

  • The sectional completion of the project by 3 June 2020;
  • Total completion of the project by no later than 30 November 2020;
  • Roof repairs to the existing buildings on the current Laerskool Grens site to be completed before March 2020; and
  • Six prefabricated classrooms would be placed at the current premises.

See: Letter from DOE

But, while the school has upheld its end of the agreement, the Education Department has not.

Work has once again stopped on the new school site, as there is currently in excess of R1,3 million in unpaid invoices for the project, which is only at around 60% completed. A further R53 million is needed to complete it.

The roof repairs to the existing premises have still not been completed and no prefabricated classrooms have been provided.

This has resulted in unfavourable learning conditions for learners of both Laerskool Grens and Buffalo City Inner City School, and has had a dramatic impact on the school’s learner intake for next year, which is vital for the school’s long term sustainability.,

The DA has recently posed questions to the MEC of Education in the Eastern Cape, Fundile Gade, for information on all incomplete school infrastructure projects in the province, the prospects of completion and the relevant interest and penalty claims against the Department in the wake of the school infrastructure being reduced and drained by the procurement of overpriced PPE.

I will be tabling additional questions to the MEC of Education with respect to the Laerskool Grens infrastructure project