Learners at Alheit van der Merwe Primary school in Aliwal North are only receiving four hours of schooling per day after a fire destroyed their school infrastructure a year ago because the Department of Education has failed to follow through on its promises of temporary classrooms.
Education MEC, Fundile Gade, must explain what the delays are in providing this school with the seven temporary classrooms that his department has been promising to deliver since the beginning of the year.
In May 2021, a fire gutted seven classrooms, nine bathrooms, the computer laboratory, and the administration block. A large portion of 940 learners registered at the school are now divided between seven dilapidated prefab classrooms that were built in 1971 and which have long since exceeded their lifespan.
During a recent oversight of the school, I found that, as a direct result of the fire damage and the department not providing any form of support, learners in grades 4 to 7 are only receiving four hours of teaching a day. Due to the limited available resources, the school has had to split the learners, with some grades attending classes in the morning, and the remainder of learners attending school in the afternoons.
The burnt structures on-site are also an immediate health and safety risk to the learners, teachers and staff. This structure can collapse at any time. Learners are exposed to shards of glass, building material and an electrical box that was damaged in the fire.
There are also not enough ablution facilities for all the learners. The 35 female teachers and staff only have one toilet available to them. The men must utilise the ablution facilities at the rugby club.
The condition of the school infrastructure before the fire was not conducive to teaching and learning and the school has needed infrastructure replacements for many years.
In the year since the fire took place, the department has done very little to assist in this crisis. The truth is a new school is needed as a matter of urgency.
The Democratic Alliance will fight for these learners to receive proper education in a safe schooling environment, as is their constitutional right.
I will take this matter up with MEC Gade directly, to request that a new school be prioritised for the learners of Alheit van der Merwe Primary school. The MEC must also answer why the promises that were made for temporary classrooms have not been met.
I will also be writing to the head of infrastructure for the department of education in the province, requesting him to urgently visit the school and provide answers as to when temporary classrooms will be received as promised.
I will also be writing to the Department of Public Works to request that the damaged structure be demolished and removed as a matter of urgency.