Government needs R40bn to rebuild schools
THE Eastern Cape education department is swiftly implementing changes in schools throughout the province, says spokesman Loyiso Pulumani.
"I don't mind the criticism coming our way, but the context is just as important ... it is a mammoth task facing us," said Pulumani.
About 400 mud schools have to be demolished and replaced with permanent structures.
Many schools need structural upgrading, proper sanitation and access to water.
"Government does not have the R40-billion required to eradicate all of these schools at one go, to fix up all the schools - all of them."
Pulumani said it could cost between R25-million and R50-million to build a school.
Prefabricated buildings are being installed at schools such as Mkanzini Junior Secondary and Mwezeni Senior Primary schools in the interim.
But these temporary structures do not come cheap. It costs R7-million for just one, which includes 10 classrooms, an office and a staff room.
Eight prefabricated buildings at Mkanzini school have been torched by angry pupils who were demanding permanent structures.
Then there is the thorny issue of furniture. Pulumani said the department had been involved in a legal battle with manufacturers for years. He said they were provided with "substandard furniture" and had refused to pay for the goods.
"There was a tendency to build beautiful schools and they would stand empty because we were busy fighting ... it took three to four years in court and as such there was a huge backlog of furniture."
After reaching an out-of-court settlement, the department started purchasing better-quality desks.
He dispelled concerns that the department will not furnish the new classrooms and offices at Mkanzini and Mwezeni. Both schools, he said, would have desks, chairs, tables, cupboards and blackboards.
Pulumani also conceded that rural schools do not have proper sanitation or access to clean water.
"Conditions they have had to endure are quite despicable," he said, adding that officials were working hard to ensure this too changed.