South Africa: Villagers Close Rotting School in Eastern Cape

On Monday, teachers and learners shut down Zanokhanyo Junior Secondary School in Butterworth, Eastern Cape. The school, located in Zazulwana Village, has 471 learners.

Parents say the school was built 35 years ago with prefabricated materials. They say it is in an unacceptable condition and dangerous for their children. They also said the pit latrines were rotten and unsafe.

"Now these prefabs are rotten ... We went to the Department of Education at the district level to ask them to build a school for us ... We reported the matter at the provincial level. We were promised that they were going to check out the problem. It has been 12 years now waiting for them to come with a solution," said Nobuntu Lavisa, a parent.

"The classrooms have holes in the walls ... It is very cold and windy as we speak today," she said.

Community leader Sibabaliwe Dadaboshe said, "These children are not safe in their school. Why our government [only] wants to act when there is something that happened? I am saying this because if a child can be hit by zinc [sheet] or pole here, government officials come running as if we did not report this matter."

She said snakes are found every few weeks in the classrooms.

"Our school gets annual maintenance budget but it is very useless to maintain rotten material. Our school principal has been buying zincs so that he can fix those holes, but we stopped him. We stopped him because these zincs, when there is a heavy wind, they just fly, so it means they can hit people," she said.

Eastern Cape Education spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima said they had assessed the school. He said there was a "huge backlog" and insufficient funds.

"We currently have R73 billion needed for this school and many more [in the Eastern Cape]," he said. But the department only had R1.5 billion.

"That is why we at times encourage the use of norms and standards maintenance budgets to plug holes and broken windows as a stop gap measure, while the department is working with districts to reprioritise where necessary to ensure those in dire conditions get their schools first," said Mtima.

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