Teaching goes on in condemned buildings

Lee-Anne Butler HERALD REPORTER

TWO Uitenhage primary schools have become so dilapidated and run down
that health officials have condemned the buildings, yet teaching
continues.

The provincial department acknowledges there are 24 schools in the
immediate area that need urgent attention but because of budget
constraints and a massive backlog the department can not attend to the
schools.

 

Broken windows
Broken windows

CW Hendrickse Primary School principal Dawood Ryners said health
inspectors and the fire brigade had deemed the school unacceptable last
year.

 

“When this school was built in 1978 the department of education then
said it was to be a temporary structure to relieve the pressure of
schools in the area. That was over 30 years ago and today the exact same
structure is still in place,” he said.

Ryners said it was “unacceptable” that teaching was still taking
place at the school, which he said had become so dilapidated and run
down that many classrooms now stood empty.

“This school is built from old prefab material which is basically
hard cardboard. If you knock the walls you can hear it is not solid.
This is why it is so easy for vandals to break in.”

Ryners said despite vandalism being a major problem for the school,
years of bad weather and rain and wind had taken its toll on the school.

“Everywhere in the school you can see the dampness and the cracks.
Roofs are caving in and walls are breaking. I have written to the
department on numerous occasions and they have promised me that the
school is on their list of priorities but nothing ever happens.”

He said because other schools in the area were built in later years,
they had been built properly with bricks and cement. However the other
schools had been declared no-fees schools while CW Hendrickse had been
denied its application.

“I do not understand why we were denied. We struggle with the high
unemployment rate in the area and with the vandalism. We need over
R60000 to start building a solid school structure but we do not know if
we will ever be able to raise the money.”

Ryners said the school needed at least 15 new classrooms. He said
despite the school having enough desks, more classrooms were being
closed because they were unsuitable for teaching the 1133 pupils at the
school.

“Because this school is made of very old wood it is a definite fire hazard.”

Jubilee Park Primary School in Uitenhage has a similar problem.
Despite being built in the 1952 from wooden planks, the old school
structure has not been maintained.

A new school building has been built but classes from grade 4 to grade 7 are still taught in the old school building.

Jubilee Park primary school principal Lorna Bosman said the school
had the nickname “Plankies” and had been deemed unsafe by the
municipality.

“Nothing works here. The wiring is so old that the teachers teach in
the dark. The plumbing is broken, the walls and floors are broken. It is
really unsafe here.”

She said the education minister visited the school last year and said
it was the first time he had seen a school built from planks.

“If a fire broke out there would be serious trouble as we have 1224
learners. I feel so sorry for the teachers who have to teach in these
conditions. They said they would bring temporary structures to replace
this building but the parents were angry and protested. They do not want
a temporary structure. They want a real school building.”

Provincial education spokesman Loyiso Pulumani said the department
was aware of the problem but because of budget restraints its hands were
tied.

“This year the department received R981-million which may sound like a
lot of money but in actual fact it is only a drop in the ocean. We have
a backlog in the province for which we will need at R23-billion,” said
Pulumani.

He said with the R981-million the provincial department has started
building 12 schools this year, identified 35 schools which will receive
three to four new classrooms and identified 54 schools that need urgent
attention due to weather damage like strong winds blowing off roofs and
hard rain destroying the structures.

“I can confirm that we are aware of the schools that have been
declared fire hazards. We are aware of 24 schools in the Port Elizabeth,
Uitenhage and King William’s Town districts but because of budget
constraints there is nothing we can do. The department is facing a
backlog that will take 20 years to clear up.”

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