R75m pledge to build 7 schools

THE government has promised to spend R75million on building seven decent schools for hundreds of Eastern Cape pupils learning in mud huts.

The undertaking by the Department of Basic Education came in an out-of-court settlement on Friday after the Legal Resource Centre began proceedings on behalf of the seven schools in the former Transkei.

In terms of the settlement, the department will erect temporary classrooms for the schools by the end of March and provide water tanks and enough desks and chairs for all pupils.

Construction of permanent schools must start by the end of May, with a budget of between R10million and R13,5million per school.

The schools - Nomandla, Tembeni and Sidanda junior primary schools and Madwaleni, Sompa, Maphindela and Nkonkoni senior primary schools - are all in the Libode and Port St Johns areas.

Last June they took the Education Department to the Bisho high court, demanding that it replace their unsafe mud structures, and for the local municipality to provide water and sanitation.

At Tembeni Junior Primary in Mayalwa village pupils are forced to use the toilet block as a classroom. More than 250 pupils shared 53 desks last year and did not have a single chair to sit on.

"With 220 learners having registered this year the fight for chairs has spread to teachers. It's a case of first come, first served for both teachers and pupils when it comes to chairs," said a Tembeni Primary school teacher, who declined to be named.

The community built six rondavels in 1991 when the Tembeni school was started for pupils from Grade R to 6. But those were damaged by wind and rain. Thatched roofs have been blown off and there are big cracks in the walls.

"The worst affected classes are the Grade 2s and 4s that have 40 and 41 pupils crammed in 30m² and a 28m² rooms, respectively," another teacher said.

"Floors are muddy during rainy seasons. Fewer than 30percent of pupils come to school when it rains because we are as good as being out in the open."

At Nomandla Senior Primary School pupils use the backs of their classmates as writing surfaces since they have no desks or chairs.

Nomandla Junior Primary School governing body chairperson Mbopheni Sikiti said they had the same problems in 2009, with a six-room mud block to cater for 300 pupils between Grades R and 8.

About 63 Grade 1s were crammed into a 30m² classroom. Two classrooms were destroyed by storms in May and June that year, prompting the community to pay R100 a household to build a three-room school of cement blocks.

When the provincial education department told principal Bonile Tshitshiliza they had no money to rebuild his school, the parents decided to take the government to court.