How they robbed Mandela
This school could have been rebuilt if R22m from the Eastern Cape Development Corporation’s social infrastructure grant budget had not been wasted on T-shirts, catering and transport to memorial services for former president Nelson Mandela.
While a total of R330m was diverted from the corporation’s budget that was supposed to have been spent rebuilding mud schools and electrifying villages, pupils at Mpozolo Senior Secondary School, outside Willowvale, were trying to learn under appalling conditions.
Although it is a government school, the government did not construct a single one of its buildings.
Situated 40km from Willowvale, close to the Dwesa Nature Reserve, the school has 350 pupils and 12 teachers. It is situated in Ward 22 of the Mbhashe Local Municipality. According to 2011 Census information aggregated by Wazimap, 52% of residents have to fetch household water from a river, more than 75% have no access to any toilets, only 8.9% have jobs and only 6% of residents have passed matric.
Local residents used breeze blocks to build six classrooms and the administration block in 1983. Since then, the provincial education department has failed to deliver on promises of building the school properly. It is the only school of its kind in the area. Some of the pupils come from villages as far as 10km away.
When City Press visited on Thursday, the school’s staff and children had left for the summer holidays. The structure, partially built of mud, is falling apart. Bricks dangle from the roof, posing a danger to pupils and teachers. One of its six classrooms collapsed in heavy wind in 2015.
The interior walls of all the classrooms are not plastered. The roof leaks. The floors are in a state of ruin. There is a gaping hole in the Grade 9 classroom. The floors and surrounding verandas are made of mud, now damp after the rain.
None of the classrooms has electricity. Most desks and chairs are old and broken. All the doors are broken and cannot lock.
One of the teachers at the school, who asked not to be named, said they work under terrible conditions. Their only teaching aids are small chalkboards balanced on top of desks, not mounted on the walls like in other schools.
“This is a school from hell. I don’t know how anyone can be expected to learn or work in these kinds of conditions. When it’s raining, we are forced to combine some of the grades into a single classroom because some have leaks all over the place. The conditions are not acceptable. These children are going to get pneumonia from this place,” the teacher said.
“All the classrooms are damp because the floors were not properly built, with a solid foundation. It’s not safe here. You are always worried if the structure is going to collapse on you and the pupils. It’s unreliable. We wish government could do something about the school.”
Another teacher said they had been waiting for many years for the school to be properly built. However, their pleas to the provincial education department have fallen on deaf ears.
The teacher said that in 2015, pupils staged a protest against the poor state of their school, but again the department ignored them.
Provincial education spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima did not answer calls seeking comment. He asked to be sent an inquiry by SMS, but failed to respond.
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane wrote in her 333-page report into the Mandela funeral fund scandal that the province’s R330m social infrastructure grant was diverted to preparations for Mandela’s funeral, instead of being spent on providing running water, electricity, toilets and ablution facilities, replacing mud schools and refurbishing hospitals.
“Millions of rands of public funds earmarked for service delivery and social infrastructure development were used for a state funeral because of a lack of coordinated planning and non-compliance with the legislation and other prescripts regulating procurement,” Mkhwebane found.
DA provincial leader Bobby Stevenson said there are hundreds of mud schools in the province.
“One of the tragedies of the Eastern Cape is that there is money available to fix much-needed infrastructure, but because the right people are not in the right jobs, the money is not spent where it is needed,” he said.
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