Hell of a school
A few blocks away from a neglected R82m state-of-the-art school in a swamp, 2,000 pupils have to endure lessons in dilapidated prefabs, with holes in the floor and share space with rats
For nearly three years, Slindile Malope has watched with frustration as the new state-of-theart school for the children of Mayibuye informal settlement in Midrand, Gauteng, stood empty.
Malope is a parent of a grade 5 pupil at the old Mayibuye Primary School, where more than 1,900 pupils are crammed into containers and wendyhouses.
Her heartache is further compounded by the deteriorating conditions of the makeshift classrooms, with only six working toilets, broken chairs and desks as well as holes in classroom floors.
In 2017 a new state-of-the-art school was built three streets away, with the aim of moving the Mayibuye Primary pupils and close the old, shabby school.
The R82m new school could not open its doors because no building plans were approved by the City of Johannesburg for its construction, the site where the school is built is water-logged and the development contravened the national building regulations.
The new school is now standing on an overgrown site, with cracking walls giving it a spooky appearance.
Last month, Gauteng legislature’s portfolio committee on infrastructure visited the new school to find out more about its problems.
Committee chairperson Mpho Modise said they had received shocking reports that a certificate of occupancy of the building could not be issued due to non-compliance with building regulations.
“There were issues that the City of Johannesburg was not consulted before the school was built. There is no way we can allow 2,000-plus children to come here,” Modise said.
“There will be a committee of inquiry because people need to account. Decisions will be made there as to whether the school has to be demolished or the contractor will have to pay for the adjustments that are needed to be done here,” he said.
The new school has been deemed unsafe for occupation because of stagnant water with a pungent smell that has left its walls cracked.
According to a presentation made to the committee by the City of Johannesburg, the new primary school is built on water-logged ground, with damp rising up its walls.
The city said a certificate of occupancy could not be issued as building plans have not been submitted and approved.
Gauteng department of infrastructure development spokesperson Bongiwe Gambu said during construction it was discovered that there was an existing sewer line that frequently blocked with overflow
‘‘ We can’t expect kids to focus in such conditions
running to the building site.
“The intermittent sewer overflow causes the site to be wet and thus creating persistent damp for the school walls.
“To address the above issues the contract had to be revised through applicable process. The MECs for both departments of infrastructure and education have visited the site and agreed on the way forward to complete the project. The process involves approval of funds and additional scope to enable completion,” Gambu said.
The legislature’s response and promises for a solution is small comfort for Malope, who expressed displeasure about Mayibuye children continuing to use the old, makeshift school.
“Our children have always been taught in old container (prefab) classes and the new school was [supposed to be] a much relief for this community. Every parent has a dream to take their child to a good and safe school.
“For the first time our children were going to be introduced to smartboard classes and digital learning which was a good thing for us in this community. However, that seems like a far-fetched dream as the school was built in the wrong place, which is always flooded by sewage,” Malope said.
The school’s governing body chairperson, Mokgonyane Koenite, said the old school has been around for 17 years.
“We have never had a proper structure and the conditions here are not conducive for learning. We can’t expect children to concentrate in such conditions. The school is overcrowded but at least for now [due to coronavirus outbreak] children are rotating,” he said.
Lamla Nosipho, 63, whose granddaughter is in grade 2, said the old primary school is also rat-infested.
“We want to take our children to good schools but we can’t afford to pay for transport,” Nosipho said.
“We were happy with the new school in our area, which meant our children would not have to travel to other townships for school. But we are disappointed we can’t use it.”
This is not the first school in City of Johannesburg to fail to obtain the occupancy permit.
Last year, the boarding part of the Nokuthula Centre and Special School in Lyndhurst was forced to remain closed after the facility could also not be issued with occupancy certificate.
The R300m state-of-the-art school had to partially operate on a temporary occupancy certificate after the city found deficiencies with approvals of plans on the site where it is located.