Daily Dispatch

Offenders help rebuild dilapidate­d school

Buildings were in such a bad state a pupil once fell through a toilet floor


SIXTY convicts have given a rural school a fitting facelift as part of the department of correction­al services’ social responsibi­lity programme.

Siyabonga Senior Secondary in Alice, located a few kilometres from the foot of the Hogsback mountains, was in such a bad state the principal feared for the safety of their 158 pupils and 10 staffers.

The school was built in 1978 and has not been maintained.

The 60 prisoners repaired 10 classrooms and three school administra­tion buildings. They fixed broken ceilings, gutters and electrical wiring, and installed window panes, a razorwire fence and a gate.

Close to R500 000 was spent on the project.

“We tried to get the department of education to assist but were told there were no funds.

“We partly used the government grant which is meant for school essentials. We also got donations from different NGOS and we’ve been fundraisin­g since 2009,” said school principal Mthunzi Nziweni.

Nziweni said when the school approached private surveyors, they were were told the building was in such a bad state it needed to be demolished.

The makeshift toilets were also so bad a pupil once fell through the floor.

The school renovation­s started in February this year and about 80% of the work has been completed.

“The feeling we have cannot be described with words, even the pupils’ attitude towards school work has changed. We are the envy of surroundin­g schools and communitie­s,” said Nziweni.

One pupil, Vuyiswa Mabe, said: “Before the renovation­s, I was ashamed to say which school I go to, I’d mention the school next door. But now I proudly proclaim it.”

The school has been adopted by the provincial department of correction­al services as well as department of agricultur­e which sponsored gardening equipment and is seeking more land to plant enough vegetables to not only feed those at the school but also the poverty stricken community.

The Hogsback Garden Club will help with environmen­tal greening, sponsoring of trees, flowers and green grass.

The newly revamped school was launched by correction­al services last week Friday.

“We can’t stress enough the importance and effective use of offender labour as a way for them to plough back to their communitie­s and as a step towards their social reintegrat­ion.

“This will contribute enormously to their own personal growth and community developmen­t,” said correction­al services spokesman Zama Feni. — khuthalan@dispatch.

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