Learners suffer as Education Department infrastructure projects grind to a halt

Learners suffer as Education Department infrastructure projects grind to a halt

Floors collapsing, unhygienic sanitation facilities, learners exposed to criminals, teachers robbed at gunpoint, and broken promises to fulfil infrastructure needs – these are the harsh realities faced by schools and learners.

During recent oversight visits to various schools in the district, the desperation and frustration shown by School Governing Bodies (SGB), principals, teachers and learners is a sign of an education department that cannot deliver on its mandate.

Education is the foundation of opportunity, and I will continue to fight for decent facilities for our learners. They deserve better.

Last week, I conducted oversight at several schools where infrastructure projects were rolled out to improve the learning environment for our children, but the reality is a far cry from being better.

In Nelson Mandela Bay, the new Bethelsdorp Comprehensive School was started in 2017, with a total of R78,5 million budgeted and the completion date set for June 2019. The completion date was then pushed back to March 2022 and again to December 2023.

The school is still incomplete despite having an average of 1,250 learners registered over the past three years. No work has taken place at the school for the past seven months. Contractors have left the site on more than one occasion due to non-payment of services rendered. Every year, school infrastructure projects are abandoned due to non-payment.

Alfonso Arries Primary School in Nelson Mandela Bay was built as a temporary structure in 2012. Since the growth of the Chetty community, the school currently has 1,700 learners enrolled for the 2024 academic year.

In 2019, eleven prefabs had issues with the flooring collapsing. Following protests from the community, these were repaired by the department, but within three years, the floors started to collapse again.

Although it was promised that a new school would be built, no land has yet been identified for this to occur.

Learners and teachers risk their safety to attend school where there is also no electricity due to vandalism and no water due to the lack of a proper filtration system from a borehole.

Teachers and learners at Elundini Primary School in Motherwell have become targets for criminals roaming on school grounds due to the school having no enclosed fencing. Criminals enter the school and hold teachers at gunpoint while taking equipment from the school.

Lingcom Primary school in Graaff Reinet has 740 learners enrolled for the 2024 academic year. The project for a new school started in November 2017. The project is not yet complete and there is no contractor on site. The new school has no hall and no sports field.

Ekuphumleni Senior Secondary School in Kwanonzamo in Middelburg has over 700 learners enrolled at the school, with only 2 toilets for all the learners. The toilets remain locked due to the extent of the sanitation infrastructure. I was informed that learners use a nearby field to relieve themselves. Not only does this rob learners of their dignity, but it poses a great risk to their safety.

I will be writing to the district directors, and also the acting HOD, Sharon Maasdorp, to inform them of the conditions at these schools and call for urgent action. Although most of the findings have been reported to ECDOE on previous occasions, no clear responses have been forthcoming.