The Citizen (KZN)

School goes lights out, owing thousands

- Marecia Damons

A primary school in Delft owes Eskom about R39 000 and has been without electricit­y since last month.

The education department is trying to assist the school in Cape Town but this is not the first time it has had to be bailed out.

Vergenoegd Primary School, with more than 1 500 pupils, is a non-fee-paying school, which means it is allocated money by the Western Cape education department (WCED). It is responsibl­e for using that money, for stationery and textbooks, paying water and electricit­y accounts and undertakin­g maintenanc­e.

The school has attempted to make payment arrangemen­ts but a teacher, who asked not to be named, says the power utility has been unwilling to assist.

He said members of staff were shocked when Eskom cut the power and the school discovered its bursar office had missed payments since last August.

By the time the fault was discovered, Eskom said the arrears were about R28 000, which the school could not afford to pay.

On 9 March, the school held a food fair to raise emergency funds to pay the bill. It raised about R20 500, which was apparently paid to Eskom the following week.

According to the teacher, the school again contacted Eskom after making the payment to ask that the electricit­y be reconnecte­d, but Eskom refused because the school was still many thousands of rands in arrears.

In e-mail correspond­ence between the utility and the school, which GroundUp has seen, Eskom confirmed it had received the R20 500. But the school needed to pay at least R15 000 of the R18 500 that it owes, as well as a R2 070 reconnecti­on fee.

He said the school is still investigat­ing why its bursar’s office had failed to pay the bill.

WCED spokespers­on Bronagh Hammond said the district office was aware of the issue and was working with the school to resolve this matter.

Hammond said Vergenoegd Primary had received more than R1.8 million in 2023 to cover expenses like municipal services, but WCED had given the school nearly R480 000 to pay its outstandin­g municipal debt.

The school remains without electricit­y.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa