Schools ‘time bombs’

Old build­ings and trees pose threats


THE storm dam­age at some of Dur­ban’s old­est schools was a “tick­ing bomb wait­ing to ex­plode” be­cause of a lack of main­te­nance.

At one of uM­lazi’s old­est schools, Swelihle High, two teach­ers suf­fered mi­nor in­juries, when trees fell on to a car be­fore it landed on the ad­min­is­tra­tion block and a class­room.

The trees, with sev­eral oth­ers in the school yard, are es­ti­mated to be more than 15 me­tres high. They have re­port­edly been there since the 1960s, longer than the school build­ings.

Prin­ci­pal Zandile Sit­hole said the school could not af­ford to pay for a tree-felling com­pany to cut the trees.

“These trees are too old and too tall; that is why we need them to be re­moved. They have been a tick­ing bomb wait­ing to ex­plode for years,” she said.

Sit­hole said the school re­quired ma­jor ren­o­va­tions, which they could not af­ford.

“The school’s di­lap­i­dated struc­ture could not have sur­vived the storm and with the re­cent bad weather con­di­tions we fear for the worst,” she warned.

Teach­ers Sin­disiwe Radebe and Khoni Ng­cobo, who were work­ing in of­fices next door to each other on Tues­day, had to take cover when the tree fell on the roof.

Radebe was hit by bricks and sus­tained bruises on her hands as she tried to cover her head.

“I heard a bang­ing sound and then a flood of rain and bricks came down,” she re­called. She said what hap­pened had al­ways been her worst fear.

“I sat in that of­fice ev­ery day and feared that one day soon that tree was go­ing to fall on us, and it did. I am lucky the worst didn’t hap­pen,” said Radebe.

Ng­cobo said she was grate­ful­she got out be­fore the roof and the bricks landed on her.

She said pupils’ files, re­sults, records, books and port­fo­lios were de­stroyed.

When the Daily News ar­rived, pupils were hard at work try­ing to clean up and mop­ping up wa­ter in class­rooms.

At La­montville High School, class­rooms were still flooded. The roof of the home eco­nom­ics class­room was blown off.

A teacher, who did not want to be named, said the school was in need of mas­sive ren­o­va­tions to re­pair the dam­age.

“The school is old and the roofs need to be re­placed, and should more rain come, pupils will not have class­rooms for the ex­ams,” he said.

Dur­ban East Pri­mary School in Went­worth re­mained closed as dam­aged roofs and ve­ran­das posed a dan­ger to pupils.

At Mowat Park High School par­ents and pupils spent their day help­ing clear up de­bris.

A class­room, li­brary, com­puter lab and the art room were flooded when their roofs were blown off.

Kwazi Mthethwa, the pro­vin­cial De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion spokesper­son, said 133 schools, 52 of them high schools, suf­fered se­ri­ous dam­age.

Mthethwa said the fact that the in­ci­dent was de­clared a dis­as­ter by Pre­mier Wil­lies Mc- hunu was an in­di­ca­tion that they would need the help of all stake­hold­ers.

“While schools used the past two days to clean up, we are busy try­ing to get fi­nan­cial help. We have re­quested help from the na­tional de­part­ment. The bud­get from the dis­tricts and the prov­ince would not even be­gin to cover the costs,” he said.


Pupils mop up their class­room af­ter Tues­day’s heavy rain at La­montville High School in uM­lazi. Classes were dis­rupted for a sec­ond day at most Dur­ban schools as clean­ing-up op­er­a­tions were un­der way af­ter the se­vere storm.

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