Public asked to help after fire at girls’ school hostel

Grade 9 pupil Palesa Fleetoor, 15, left, and Grade 8 pupil Sibabalwe Silomntu, 14, check their bags after their hostel was damaged by a fire on Wednesday
Picture: Brian Witbooi

Teachers, politicians and residents are calling for the community to come to the aid of a number of schoolgirls who lost their belongings in a fire that destroyed part of Gamble Senior Secondary School’s girl’s hostel.

About 80 pupils were sent home yesterday after Wednesday’s fire, which broke out on the second floor of the hostel.

The cause of the fire is not yet known, but foul play is not suspected.

Principal Anne Radcliffe said a team of teachers would be stationed at the school, where donations could be dropped off.

She added that the school collection point would be operational from 9am to 1pm today, and also from Monday during school hours.

Radcliffe said the pupils would return to the hostel in stages, with the first group expected back tomorrow.

The rest would return during the course of next week.

She said many of the girls came from farm areas such as St Albans, Kirkwood and Addo, and for most of them travelling home was quite expensive.

Radcliffe said the school had been inundated with visits from officials of various departments, including Nelson Mandela Bay education district director Ernst Gorgonzola as well as public works officials to assess the damage.

“The floor on which the fire is believed to have started was gutted, while the rest of the building suffered smoke damage.

The [girls who lived on the] first floor also lost most of their belongings; some of them lost the only clothes they owned,” Radcliffe said.

Radcliffe, who also lives on the school property, said she had been alerted to the fire by a pupil.

She called the fire department and evacuated the children.

Ward 52 councillor Francois Greyling said donations for the school could be brought to his office at 40 Main Road, Despatch.

He said some donations had already been made yesterday.

He urged people to continue bringing in supplies, as any leftovers would be distributed to others in need.

Ward 48 councillor Tyrone Adams also encouraged people looking to donate to bring goods to his office at 27 Cuyler Street in Uitenhage.

Adams added that he and fellow councillor Georgen Miggels were planning a concert for August 20, with all proceeds going to the school.

Uitenhage resident and founding member of the school Sonia Monnie said she had felt the need to do something after receiving news about the fire.

After discussions with colleague Madre Potberg, a decision was taken to collect goods for the school and children. Monnie said she had already received a few donations.

She asked people to bring any donations to the Capitec bank branch in the Uitenhage Mall where she works.

Monnie said among the immediate needs were clothing, toiletries, bedding, books and school bags.

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