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Reopening of Nelson Mandela Bay schools beset by problems

Greenville Primary School in Bethelsdorp was unable to reopen on Monday as a result of a water leak and having been targeted by vandals during the lockdown period
SHOCKING STATE: Greenville Primary School in Bethelsdorp was unable to reopen on Monday as a result of a water leak and having been targeted by vandals during the lockdown period
Image: EUGENE COETZEE

While thousands of schools were ready to welcome back matric and grade 7 pupils on Monday, many others were forced to remain closed due to the dire state of their schools.  

A variety of reasons from no water, lack of PPE and crumbling infrastructure forced some schools to keep their gates closed.

Astra Primary School, Greenville Primary and Gelvan Park Primary were among those which were unable to open.

ANC cluster member Veliswa Ndidi said they were disturbed by what they found in certain schools as some pupils were continuing with the syllabus while others were being left behind.

Ndidi, at the time of the interview, said they had visited seven schools in Ward 34.

She said of the schools she had visited in the Lillian Diedericks area, four were active while three were still closed.

“Arcadia and three other schools haven’t resumed learning.

“We are disturbed by what we’ve found in certain schools — we expected more from service providers,” she said.

SGB member Sarah Goliath looks into one of several classrooms targeted by vandals, resulting in the school being unable to reopen to grade 7s on Monday
NOT FIT FOR USE: SGB member Sarah Goliath looks into one of several classrooms targeted by vandals, resulting in the school being unable to reopen to grade 7s on Monday
Image: EUGENE COETZEE

Greenville Primary principal Frederick Joseph said their doors remained closed because the school did not have water.

“We had a water pipe burst, there is no water in the school and I was disappointed when I had to tell parents on Friday that we couldn’t open.

“I was hoping the department would come to help us before then,” Joseph said.

“There was also a brutal fight against the infrastructure of the desolate building during the lockdown.

“Light bulbs, work books and metal items are some of the things that were stolen.”

Greenville SGB chair Karen Bowes said the school had received personal protective equipment, but had to turn about 11 pupils back that were not aware that the school was not yet open.

“The school hasn’t been disinfected, there is no water in the school and as a parent I feel the department is putting our children’s lives in danger,” Bowes said.

“We can’t let teachers and our children come back to such conditions.”

Principal Jerome May said Bertram Secondary had a smooth start to their first day of school after weeks of lockdown, having welcomed back  110 pupils.

Greenville Primary SGB chair Karen Bowes points out the leaking main pipe that feeds the school's water supply
NO WATER: Greenville Primary SGB chair Karen Bowes points out the leaking main pipe that feeds the school's water supply
Image: EUGENE COETZEE

“Our school was disinfected by Bidvest,” May said.

“We normally have three classes, however we’ve separated them into six groups to deal with social distancing.

“School started at 9.15am because pupils had to be screened.

“We handed out the masks that we were given by the department to the pupils.”

Collegiate High School deputy principal Louise Erasmus said the first day back went well, with the staggered arrival of pupils from 7am.

“By 7.50am all pupils were in, orientation training in protocols and procedures were done through a video with teachers answering question, and lessons started at 9.35am.

“Pupils were pleased to be back.

“We had been teaching online every day, but they are so pleased to be able to interact in person and not through a screen,” Erasmus said.

She  said though they were up to date with their work since they had been working remotely from the start of April, so much of education was lost when only done online.

Westering High School principal Stuart Hayward said the first day back ran smoothly with pupils co-operating well with measures and protocols in place.

“The day went well and calmly, besides a bit of catching up.

“The pupils followed instructions well, especially with regard to social distancing.

“The situation we have here [at Westering] makes it easier — staff and pupils alike are happy to be back.”

Several schools including Khwezi Lomso Comprehensive School, Thembelihle Comprehensive and Garrate Primary School all declined to comment, saying the department had given them strict instructions not to do so.

Despite the department of education acknowledging it had received The Herald’s questions, and follow-up attempts, there was no response by the time of going to print.

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