Chatty school faces ongoing financial and staff obstacles

ROCKY ROAD: The gravel road leading to Alfonso Arries Primary School is just one of the daily challenges facing staff

Inaccessibility, under-staffing and thousands of rands in electricity bills are just some of the daily obstacles staff and pupils have to contend with at Alfonso Arries Primary School in Chatty, Port Elizabeth.

Staff claim the provincial Department of Education owes them thousands of rands after they were forced to buy monthly electricity to keep the lights on, despite the school being categorised as a Section 20 school, which requires the department to foot the bill.

Deputy principal Marilyn Luyt said that since its establishment in 2012, the school spent between R2 000 and R5 000 monthly buying electricity.

“This has been going on for years,” Luyt said.

“And we have sent all the receipts as proof of purchase to the department every month.

“While we have received some money back in dribs and drabs, it does not nearly compensate the amount of money we have spent on electricity.

“I’m sure we are the only school in PE with koopkrag [electricity bought for a prepaid meter].

“The concern is that we use money from the paper budget to buy electricity. As a result, we often don’t have enough money to buy paper for photocopies.

“Another real problem we have is the school’s location,” Luyt said.

“We are in the heart of Chatty Extension. There are no tar roads, clinics or police here.

“If something goes wrong, we have to use our own cars to navigate the gravel roads quickly to help in a medical emergency.”

In February, the school received an additional 11 prefab classrooms to cater for the issue of crowded classrooms, with a head count revealing 2 254 pupils attending classes while the school could only cater for 1 200.

The new classrooms and furniture followed a two-week closure of the school after angry parents halted teaching on January 20 by blockading the gates and demanding that the department address the overcrowding.

However, department head Dawetu Ntomboxolo said the school was still short about 10 staff.

“We received new classrooms but we are yet to receive teachers for those classrooms,” Ntomboxolo said.

“In addition, two of the Grade R teachers have not received their salary or stipend from the department in over a year.”

Municipal spokesman Mthubanzi Mniki said: “Road construction to and from all essential services like schools, clinics, police stations, fire and emergency services were on a priority list.

“However, budget availability is always a determining factor as there are many priority areas within a limited budget.

“A road to Alfonso Primary is a priority.”

The Department of Education failed to respond to questions.

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