The provincial department has failed to spend its infrastructure budget for years and some schools are literally falling down. This is leading to a loss of learners, school closures, vandalism and robbery.
Eastern Cape schools have carried the burden of underdevelopment, poor infrastructure and vandalism over the years, which is often ignored by the provincial Department of Education’s district offices. In Makhanda and Gqeberha, deteriorating infrastructure has led to a decrease in learner enrolment, often leading to schools being closed down.
The Public Service Accountability Monitor at the university currently known as Rhodes University released a research paper in 2017 on school infrastructure in the Eastern Cape that highlighted deep irregularities within the provincial infrastructure development budgets. The Eastern Cape Department of Education had severely underspent their allocated budget for school infrastructure over the years, according to the research.
“Underspending was recorded in the infrastructure development programme by over R49 million. The 2016-2017 financial year was noted to having had underexpenditure similar to the 2015-2016 financial year due to delays with project delivery and subsequent underachieving of planned targets,” says the paper.
Not addressing infrastructure development issues puts the future of public education at risk. A school in Gqeberha that has been battling with poor infrastructure and sanitation is now overwhelmed by the additional burden of crime. In combination, these problems threaten the school’s future.
Half its learners gone
Inkqubela Primary School has struggled with infrastructure problems for more than half a decade. It has lost half of its 400 learners for the 2021 academic year. With a 50-year history and three generations of learners attending the school from certain households, its beautiful history may soon be overwritten by the Eastern Cape Department of Education’s inability to provide the basics.
“I was a student at this school and so was my daughter, and now my grandchild will attend grade R at this school. It is sad that schools with a long history of existence are being neglected by the department,” said Charmaine Yani, the 54-year-old deputy chairperson of the school governing body (SGB).
The SGB, parents and teachers have spent five gruelling years trying to get the provincial department and its district office to repair the crumbling infrastructure at the school.