Dilapidated schools impair teaching and learning in the Eastern Cape

Imiqhayi Secondary School in Mount Coke. Photo supplied.

According to the department of education in the Eastern Cape, the improvement of facilities at almost half of the schools in the province is delayed while about a fifth have no electricity.

The Eastern Cape Department of Education has revealed that 2,000 of the 5,000 schools in the province have poor infrastructure while about 1,000 schools have no electricity and over 100 schools still use pit latrines. This was disclosed during a roundtable discussion on infrastructure delays and how it compromises the quality of education in Eastern Cape schools, which was attended by more than fifty various stakeholders. Organised by Equal Education, the event took place on Tuesday at Nompendulo High in Zwelitsha, King Williams Town.

Stakeholders that attended the meeting included learners and former learners from various affected schools, parents, teachers and activists, and representatives of school governing bodies (SGBs). The engagement focused on budgetary constraints faced by the department as well as developing measures to mitigate irregular spending. All the stakeholders agreed that the crisis exists and there is gross incapacity on the part of the department of education. 

Thabang Monare, the director for infrastructural planning told the participants that over 2,000 schools of the just over 5,000 schools in the province have serious backlogs. He revealed that more than a thousand schools lack electricity while over 100 schools still have pit latrines.

Pit toilets at Imiqhayi Secondary School in Mount Coke near King Williams Town. Photo supplied

In addition to inadequate budgets, according to Monare other challenges faced by the department include the over reliance on external implementing agencies, inefficient supply chain management, and the low number of learners in some schools which is being dealt with through a rationalisation programme to close down schools in the province.

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To solve these problems, Monare said that the Eastern Cape premier has appointed the Department of Public Works to get involved and improve the education department’s construction and infrastructural capacity issues. “Sixty percent of the 33 billion [rand] goes to maintenance and contractors are expensive since it costs about half a million [rand] to build just one classroom,” he said.

The Eastern Cape Department of Education returned R205-million to the treasury which was meant for upgrading school infrastructure because it never spent it.

An Equal Education banner hanging at the entrance of Nompendulo High in Zwelitsha on Tuesday. Photo by Anele Mbi

SGB chairpersons and learners from various schools narrated the state of their schools by sharing their lived experiences and displaying pictures. Schools that featured prominently included schools from Sweetwaters, Mount Coke, Ezihlahleni and Fort Beaufort.

The crises facing these schools include lack of classrooms, reconstruction of asbestos, zinc and mud structures, upgrading of toilets, electricity supply as well as the need to build workshops in various schools.

Thembani Booi, chairperson of the SGB from Luzuko Primary School in Sweetwaters near King Williams Town said their school has had a prefab structure since 1998. According to Babalwa Sodumo, a Grade 11 learner at Nompendulo, they have a shortage of teachers and fully functional workshops for technical students, and the generally old infrastructure of their school affects the learners’ academic progress. “Challenges relating to the quality of our school such as broken doors, untidy toilets, long grass, affects our self-esteem and motivation as compared to learners from other schools,” she said.

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In her presentation, Elizabeth Biney from Equal Education said infrastructural backlogs which directly affects the health, safety and dignity of learners constitutes a human rights violation. “Even though after the introduction of infrastructural law there have been some changes, there is still a huge backlog and this affects the ability of Eastern Cape learners to compete with other learners nationally,” she said. In conclusion, Noncedo Madubedube, the secretary general of Equal Education maintained that her organisation would intensify the building of a mass-based movement of parents, learners and civil society to ensure that infrastructure backlogs are addressed and irregular expenditure comes to an end. 

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