Schools take another battering

The snow and gale-force winds that hit the Eastern Cape last month will adversely affect results at the end of the year, educationists are predicting.

When learners returned to school at the end of the July holidays, they found the doors, roofs and win-dows of their schools destroyed by the wind and snow. In rural areas teachers and learners could not reach their schools for days because of the deep snowfalls.

In a province where the matric pass rate for last year was a dismal 44,6% and the provincial Department of Education in Bisho battles to rein in inefficiency and corruption, teachers and learners say there are no guarantees that their schools will be repaired. At some schools the damage is so severe that lessons cannot be held.

Pupils in Port Elizabeth’s poorest areas found themselves back

in classrooms without doors, windows and roofs after a gale-force wind hit the city in mid-July.

Some principals in the area say the storm was a blessing in disguise, as they had been begging for repairs to be done to their schools for years without response. They are now hoping that the government will step in to assist.

However, one principal, who did not want to be named, remained sceptical, blaming the ‘lackadaisical attitude” of the education department for ongoing problems.

‘Since compelling our schools to become financially self-sufficient - and this in communities where there is a high unemployment rate - the department has become less involved in the day-to-day running of our schools. We are going to need more than just verbal assurances if constructive learning is to take place at the end of the day.”

The fierce gale, which gusted up to 130kph, caused damage estimated at millions of rands. Roofs were torn off, cars were crushed by falling trees and hundreds of township homes were wrecked.

A 13-year-old Zwide schoolboy, Zamuxolo Menze, was killed when a wall fell on him during the gale. Menze was a Grade 7 pupil at Mvisiswano Higher Primary School and had been ‘adopted” earlier this year by a Swiss journalist, who was sponsoring his schooling because his parents could not afford it.

Cowan High School pupil Xolisa Keti (19) died of pneumonia after his parents’ shack, built on a for-mer dumping site in an informal settlement in New Brighton, was destroyed by the wind and rain.

The wind-ravaged city was not declared a national disaster area and so does not warrant national emergency funding.

Education department spokesperson Phaphama Mfenyana says the provincial department is unable to give any assurance that schools will be repaired because of budget constraints.

Mfenyana says principals must submit reports on the scale of the damage at their schools to their education district managers. The department will then provide assistance ‘wherever possible”. He says the national government will fund repairs at schools affected by heavy snowfalls to get schooling back on track as soon as possible.

Schooling was hampered with heavy snowfalls in the Ugie, Indwe and Barkly East areas in late July and several deaths were reported as a result.

The roofs of several businesses and homes caved in under the weight of the snow, which lay a metre deep in places. At the time of going to press the extent of the damage to schools in these areas was not known.

Emergency supplies started streaming into the snow-ravaged Eastern Cape towns of Elliot and Cala after the areas were declared disaster zones by Minister of Provincial and Local Government Sydney Mufamadi.

Schools were closed in the Cala district when pupils were roped in to assist with relief operations.

In the heart of rural Transkei, where heavy rains were reported, some schools failed to open for the third term. Most of the teachers redeployed to these areas were returning from holiday and left stranded when the snow made the roads inaccessible to vehicles.

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