Gauteng parents unhappy with status of school readiness

WITH the start of the new school year set to get underway on Wednesday, parents in Gauteng schools have expressed frustration and anger at authorities’ empty promise. 

Some schools are still grappling with lack of classrooms, maintenance backlog, eradication of asbestos roofs and deteriorating facilities. 

According to a response in the Gauteng legislature by education MEC Matome Chiloane in November last year, it will take 15 years and R40.9bn to address infrastructure maintenance needs in schools in the province. These include basic services, curriculum, construction, security and sporting facilities. 

Noordgesig Secondary in Soweto needs more classrooms to begin the 2024 schooling year and end its rotational classes. . It was one of the 29 schools identified by the department in 2022 as unsafe because it was built with asbestos.

In October last year, health inspectors prohibited the school from using 13 of the asbestos classrooms for grades 8 to 11 pupils. 

Eight mobile classes were delivered to the school last year but even this has not made much difference, according to the parents.

Former school governing body (SGB) member Ravern Martin said the school would have to consider rotational learning again this week. “There will be more students, which means there will be overcrowding.”

The return to the classroom for pupils at Barcelona Primary School in Etwatwa, Benoni, is a source of frustration for parents whose pleas for a new school have fallen on deaf ears. 

The school has been using prefab classrooms while awaiting on the promise to build a new facility for decades. To date, not a single classroom has been built and parents told Sowetan that they have lost hope. 

Despite promises six months ago by the Gauteng department of infrastructure development that a project to build the new school was at a procurement stage, there was no sign any work under way at the school when Sowetan visited yesterday. 

SGB chairperson Lebogang Mogoba said the current school was falling apart, with broken windows and doors having to be replaced regularly. 

“The doors aren’t holding up well, we constantly have to replace them because they fall, toilets leak quite regularly and we cannot compromise on that, we find ourselves having to fix them urgently because children’s health is at stake. All of this is fixed from the school’s budget which is not much,” she said. 

Six years ago, controversial businessman Edwin Sodi’s company Blackhead Consulting was appointed as project consultant responsible for overall management of the building of the school project.

According to a response by Chiloane in the Gauteng legislature Sodi’s company was one of the five companies that was paid over R27m for the Barcelo school project.

A parent at the school who asked not to be named said she has three children and was tired of promises. 

“On November 28, a parents meeting was held at the school with officials from the provincial department of infrastructure and we were told that a board would be formed to oversee the appointment of a contractor. 

“As promising as it may sound, I don’t buy it. We have heard this before six years ago.  

“I went to the school. I used those mobile classes. I have a child that is now in high school she was in those shacks too and the same song was sung when she was there. I can bet that my children who attend there are not going to see a brick school.” 

Another parent Nthabiseng Kgolana, 56, said the community remained disappointed that despite their best efforts, no school was standing. 

“The community has held protests, tried to hold meetings but nothing came out of it. We were told money was spent on contractors but look at that school and tell me if it looks anything like millions were spent? 

Magobo said the SGB expected an update on when a new contractor would be appointed to built a new school this week.

At the Pretoria Primary School where portions of the school also had asbestos, SGB chairperson Kagiso Khalo said nothing had changed .

“The situation has stayed the same and we don’t really know how to move forward. The district officer that was supposed to deal with this problem had left and now everything seems to have been put on pause,” said Khalo.

Image (MEC Education in GP Matome Chiloane says Sodi’s company was one of the five companies that was paid over R27m for the Barcelo school project).

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