While the dire state of the province’s public schools infrastructure has been highlighted in numerous reports in the past, the Democratic Alliance (DA) in Limpopo made yet another appalling discovery at Rakgoatha Primary School in Zebediela last Tuesday where it was found that a block of classrooms destroyed by hail storm about three years ago has not been fixed.
The discovery was made by DA Limpopo political head for Lepelle-Nkumpi Constituency, Katlego Phala who indicated that the school has three blocks of classes, including the one that has been destroyed and is forced to accommodate all its learners in the remaining two blocks. The situation is blamed on the misuse of norms and standards money, departmental budget and the alleged ignorance of political leadership and subsequent failure to provide basic services to the people.
Phala emphasised that in excess of 40 learners are accommodated in one classroom causing unnecessary overcrowding which makes it impossible for conducive learning and teaching at the school. She further claimed that the department has been making empty promises since the incident and this forced her to write a letter to MEC of Education Ishmael Kgetjepe last Wednesday to seek an urgent intervention.
“Furthermore, adequate resources such as textbooks, desks and chairs were also damaged during the storm which has also contributed towards the shortage of education tools at the school. It is apparent that the department has failed these learners and educators for over three years by not fulfilling its own mandate to provide a conducive environment for learning and teaching which contravenes the learners’ constitutional rights as enshrined in the Constitution,” Phala explained, adding that all learners deserve a dignified learning environment.
The focus is not only on Rakgoatha Primary School, as she emphasised that there is a number of schools, especially special schools that face the same situation in Limpopo and that the department doesn’t seem to care. She went on to claim that the African National Congress (ANC) leadership in Limpopo does not take care of its people.
DA researcher in Limpopo Moses Mariga, who focuses mostly on schools expressed concern about the dire state of education infrastructure in the province and pointed out that Vhembe district is the most affected because schools were damaged during riots in the area while some were destroyed by natural disasters. He said the infrastructure was ‘pretty poor’ because the department had not set aside enough budget for maintenance and further claimed that the department did not have a plan on how to maintain schools and was clueless on how they were going to replace pit toilets with decent modern ablution facilities.
A norms and standards report highlighting education infrastructure and maintenance backlog that was made available to Polokwane Observer allegedly signed by both Kgetjepe and Head of Department, Beauty Mutheiwana dating 16 November 2016 indicated that the department at that time needed about R21 417 096 472 to address the backlog in Limpopo public schools.
Although the report was done two years ago, Mariga claims that the situation has not changed and the department would need at least R30 billion to deal with the backlogs for both normal and special schools. According to a report, the department did not allocate money to refurbish and rehabilitate schools for 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20 financial years. Polokwane Observer has also observed that a block of about four classrooms that was blown away by heavy storms at Sehlagane Primary school in Ga-Matamanyane village, Moletjie early this year has not been fixed and it was reported that overcrowding is experienced.
When contacted for comment, Department of Education spokesperson Sam Makondo stated that they have received the letter from the DA in Limpopo on Wednesday and would respond to Phala as per their service standards. “Suffice to say the department knows the conditions of each and every school in the province as we have done assessment of all schools in 2014. We will accordingly give her such details as per her letter,” Makondo said.
He, however, ditched some of the questions posed by Polokwane Observer as he indicated that “That is our response. We respect the fact that she has written to us and we must respond to her and not through any other platform.”
By yesterday (Wednesday) morning, Phala indicated that she had not received a response from the department yet and stressed that the department failed to respond to her previous letter on poor infrastructure in special schools hence she was not hopeful that they will respond this time around.
Story: ENDY SENYATSI