A bizarre R1-million electrification and refurbishment plan for a farm school earmarked for closure by the Department of Education has Bedford residents baffled.
The school’s only four pupils attend classes at a teacher’s house because of the school’s isolated location.
However, despite the Lynedoch Farm School building standing empty, work to electrify the school, which started last year and then stopped for a few months, started again last month.
Farmer Francois Marais, 66, who noticed Eskom workers digging up his land last month, said he had never been asked for permission.
When he asked the contractors who had given the workers permission to dig up his land, they simply packed up and left, leaving massive holes in the ground.
“I contacted the Eskom offices in Grahamstown, but no one knows anything about this work,” Marais said.
Adding to the confusion and frustration is that Lynedoch, as well as three other schools in the area – Belmont, Huntley Glen and Belvedere – were notified in writing by the department last year that they were earmarked for closure.
Lynedoch teacher Eunice Langeni, who has been teaching at the school since 1992, said there was still no clarity on whether the school would close or not.
She said as there were only four pupils, she preferred teaching them at her home.
“We were informed in November last year that the school was going to shut down,” Langeni said. “[The department] told us the numbers were too low.”
She said on hearing that the school would be closed, some of the parents started sending their children elsewhere.
Of the school’s 14 pupils, only four remained.
She could not understand why electricity was being routed to the school.
“What is the point? The electricity would be better for the people who live here,” Langeni said.
Education spokesman Malibongwe Mtima said it was not a done deal that the school would close.
He said the school had only been asked in the letter to supply reasons why it should not be shut down.
Huntley Glen Farm School principal Florence Stemele said she had also been told her school would close.
The school caters for 36 children from grades one to seven.
Stemele said she had been informed of the pending closure last year.
“No one got into details, they just said they were going to close the school,” she said.
“A representative from the department said they would take the children to a boarding school in Adelaide.”
Farmer Ernest Pringle, who hosts Huntley Glen Primary School on his farm, said he had asked, to no avail, for electricity supply to be extended to the school. “A lot of children in the area want to learn to work on computers, so a better electricity supply would be needed,” he said.
“I asked an Eskom technician who recently came to do some work here to look at electrifying Huntley Glen, but no one has contacted me or done anything.”
Meanwhile, the electricity infrastructure for Lynedoch, being laid over about an 8km stretch, stopped two weeks ago.
Mtima said the project had been halted pending a decision on the school’s closure.
Asked about the value of the project, Mtima said he could not confirm or deny the R1-million allocation for the electrification and renovation project
“A number of schools in the area are to be renovated and electrified,” he said.
“Nothing is happening at the moment until the decision is made on the schools.” He would not confirm how much had already been spent on the now-halted project.
Eskom spokesman Zama Mpondwana said the work had stopped due to a number of problems.
“[They] include route deviation, bush clearing, renewal of contract and funding constraints,” he said.
Mpondwana conceded it was standard practice to obtain permission to access someone’s land.