Soweto learners protest state’s failure to fix school

“We love this school very much. It’s one of the best. But we are worried for our kids.”

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Photo of school meeting
William Mabaso of Kwadedangendlale High School’s School Governing Board leads a discussion on the problems with the school’s infrastructure. Photo: Zoë Postman

Hundreds of learners and parents from Kwadedangendlale High School demanded, on Friday morning, that Gauteng’s Education and Infrastructure Departments fix their school’s deteriorating infrastructure.

There are currently about 1,300 learners at the school and 28 classrooms. On average, each classroom has to hold more than 45 learners, and much more when unusable broken classrooms are taken into account. When we walked around the school, some classrooms had no doors. There were multiple broken windows, a collapsing roof, holes in the cement floor and holes in the wooden floors of the prefab classrooms.

In a memo written to the two provincial departments, the school said it had reported deteriorating infrastructure since 2014 verbally, via letters, and emails.

Teachers at the school, who asked to remain anonymous, said that engineers and architects contracted by the Infrastructure Department visited the school and compiled the first report dated 25 August 2015. The detailed report, which GroundUp has seen has photos of broken windows, collapsing zinc roofs and broken door frames. Since then, there have been three other similar reports declaring the school hazardous, but no implementation so far. The most recent report was completed in February 2017.

The teachers said they were told renovations would start on 31 January 2016, but that never happened.

“Our numbers have grown each year, but this year we couldn’t accept more students because we don’t know if the building can handle it,” said a teacher who has worked at the school since it opened in 1994. “We just want to see that something is being done, whether it means building one classroom at a time or building a new school.”

Another teacher, who has been at the school for 16 years, said safety is the biggest concern. “We can’t even teach properly because we’re worried that the building might collapse at any point. We’ve had to move learners from one classroom to the next because we don’t feel safe,” he said.

Thando Ndimande, a grade eleven pupil, recalled a time when part of the ceiling fell during an assembly and just missed a grade eight learner. He said there are about five classes which are currently not being used because they are unsafe.

“We want the department to build us a new school and not just renovate this one because things will just keep breaking. We can’t give 100% concentration to our studies if we are always thinking about our safety,” said Ndimande.

Joyce Busakwe has two children at the school. One is in grade eight and the other in grade nine. She recalled when a piece of the ceiling fell during a parent meeting in a classroom in 2016. “The department needs to do something about this because if our kids get injured at school, who will be responsible? They must not wait until something bad happens and it’s too late,” she said.

“We love this school very much. It’s one of the best. But we are worried for our kids. What will they do during winter?” asked Busakwe.

Part of the school are in a terrible state. Photo: Zoë Postman

William Mabaso, Head of Maintenance in the School Governing Board (SGB), said the SGB and some parents went to MEC of Education Panyaza Lesufi’s office in October. He said they were told he was not there, but Vuyani Mpofu, the Deputy Director General, signed receipt of a memo. Mabaso said they gave Lesufi 15 days to respond but there has been no communication since then.

“Our pass rate is currently 79%. It used to be higher but our kids are demoralised by the environment they have to learn in,” said Mabaso. Although it is not the SGB’s intention, Mabaso said it will have to shut down the school if no action is taken by the provincial government.

MEC Lesufi’s office did not respond to our request for comment by the time of publication.

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TOPICS:  Education

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