Durban – The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) in Phoenix is demanding that the eThekwini Municipality reconnect the electricity supply of two schools in Phoenix, which were disconnected in June.
IFP Proportional Representative (PR) councillor Dr Jonathan Annipen said Ferndale Secondary School and Fernham Primary School share the same school premises.
Annipen said the school, previously known as Ferndale Combined School, was split after the department invoked its transformation policy sometime in 2015, disbanding mixed.
“This gave rise to the two schools gaining autonomy in terms of administration and management but continued to occupy the same property, sharing all the infrastructure, including water and electricity supply.
“Additionally, the school's municipal account is in the name of Ferndale Secondary School,’’ Annipen said.
He added that Fernham Primary School is a Section 20 school, meaning that the Department of Education pays its bills, and Ferndale Secondary is a Section 21, meaning that the department partly subsidises their operations, however, because of the high amounts of debt owed to the City.
He said that the department has entered into an agreement with the eThekwini Municipality and has undertaken to pay the debt of all Section 21 schools in the city, albeit through a very slow process.
“The problem, in this case, is that the municipality has erroneously classified Ferndale Secondary School as a Section 20 school, abdicating its responsibilities from contributing to the payment of the school's debt”.
On June 13, 2023, the IFP offices in Phoenix were approached by the school for assistance and made several recommendations to the city:
- The IFP pointed out that the municipality incorrectly classified Ferndale Secondary as a Section 20 school. We provided the municipality with a correspondence from the Department of Education, which confirms the schools status as Section 21;
- The IFP pointed out that the school was estimated for the use of service during the hard lockdown when the school was not functional and was billed in excess of R200 thousand during a period when learners and teachers were not in school;
- The IFP pointed out that the school was estimated for use of services during the period of June 2020 to March 2022 when schools were only operational with 35-40% of learners in school;
- The IFP pointed out that now when school is operating at full capacity, the school's utility account is about 50% less than during the covid period when schools were closed or while operating at a fraction of the attendance;
- The IFP pointed out that the schools electricity metre had not been read since September 2022 to date;
- There was no water metre on the property, and the school was not notified that the metre was removed. There is a straight line connection of water supply, and the school is being estimated for water costs from August 2022.
The IFP requested that the municipality reconnect the supply of electricity and launch a thorough investigation into the account and do the necessary adjustments. We called on the CFO, who has been in discussions with the Department of Education, to clarify the issue of the school's status and facilitate engagements in this regard between the school and the DOE. To date, the CFO has failed to respond to this request.
The IFP said it found it distasteful that at the height of Youth Month and amid examinations, the eThekwini Municipality disconnected these schools.
“We are informed that the City’s revenue protection department disconnected the supply while grade 12 learners were in the middle of their computer examinations.
“We have written to the manager responsible for reconnections in the area, requesting the same and have tried calling her on a number of occasions, but she has failed to answer her phone. Rates and tariffs have increased meteorically, and service delivery has reached an all-time low,” Annipen stressed.
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