Opposition parties have criticised the spending, saying the money could have been invested in building brick and mortar classrooms. Picture: Bheki Radebe.
Opposition parties have criticised the spending, saying the money could have been invested in building brick and mortar classrooms. Picture: Bheki Radebe.

KZN Education Department under fire for forking out R650m on mobile classrooms

By Thami Magubane Time of article published Mar 9, 2021

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Durban - THE KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education has come under fire for spending more than R650 million on mobile classrooms.

Since 2016, the department has spent a total of R655m on 2 849 mobile classrooms.

This was revealed in written responses from the department to IFP MPL Mntomuhle Khawula. He had asked how much had been spent on mobile classrooms, and where these classrooms were.

Opposition parties have criticised the spending, saying the money could have been invested in building brick and mortar classrooms.

Education portfolio committee members said a school, depending on its size, could cost between R50m and R150m to build.

Khawula said the IFP in KwaZulu-Natal was shocked at the exorbitant amounts spent.

“They have purchased mobile classrooms at R230 000 each. This means that from 2016 to date at a cost of R230 000 per unit, the department has spent R655.2m on mobile classrooms.”

The leading district is Zululand, with 522, followed by Pinetown with 457. Ugu is third with 357 and Umkhanyakude has 303.

He said Umzinyathi had 278, Harry Gwala 216, Uthukela 211, Amajuba125, King Cetshwayo 120, uMlazi 107, uMgungundlovu 98 and Ilembe 55.

“While the IFP is conscious of the fact that mobile classrooms are a quick response to the immediate shortage of classrooms, we feel that the provision of classrooms in the form of brick and mortar would have saved the department millions of rand.

“The lifespan of a mobile classroom is very short. They are vandalised easily when there are break-ins at schools. The IFP appeals to the department to begin to prioritise building proper classrooms instead of providing mobile classrooms to schools,” he said.

He added that to minimise these costs, where classrooms had been provided in the form of buildings, the mobile classrooms that were previously allocated to such schools should be quickly relocated to other needy schools, instead of buying new each time there was a need for them.

Khawula said the situation did not improve the quality of education or bridge the quality of education gap between rural and townships schools with those in cities and towns.

DA education spokesperson Dr Imran Keeka said the department should explore cheaper ways to build classes.

“The department has also identified about 900 non-viable schools that it will be closing down. It said last week during a portfolio committee meeting that it still planned to close these schools down, and we have said instead that they should refurbish and repurpose these schools,” he said.

Department spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said the buying of mobile classrooms came about after unforseen events, including bad storms.

“For mobile classrooms, the need most of the time arises from natural disasters, no one plans for them. In all the districts, it’s not that there are no schools, a temporary measure was needed.”

The Mercury

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