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Taxpayers to cough up R138m for KZN, Gauteng schools damaged during unrest

Picture: Nqobile Mbonambi/ African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Picture: Nqobile Mbonambi/ African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published Aug 4, 2021


Cape Town - Taxpayers are set to cough up an estimated R138 million to 158 schools damaged during the mass looting and damage to property during the recent protests in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

The amount is in addition to costs to be incurred to repair other schools vandalised since the outbreak of Covid-19 in March 2020, and the money spent to buy mobile classrooms before the reopening of schools on Monday.

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Briefing the parliamentary committees yesterday, acting head of the KwaZulu-Natal Education Department Barney Mthembu said 144 schools, eight education circuit management offices and three education centres were verified as being damaged.

“There were losses of school property and damage to infrastructure, including classrooms,” Mthembu said.

The estimated costs stood at R100 362 000 after verification showed 144 schools were in fact damaged, not 137 as initially reported.

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“The damages did not stop the reopening of schools in the province and some of the schools were provided with mobile classrooms,” Mthembu said.

His department was engaging the national Department of Basic Education for the provision of a budget for the rehabilitation of the vandalised and looted schools, he said.

“When vandalising, you are not dealing with schools only but also cripple the future of so many learners,” Mthembu said, adding that affected schools have pupil enrolments ranging between 411 and 2 245.

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The province’s budget was insufficient to implement rehabilitation and refurbishment of school infrastructure, he said.

“The infrastructure budget for the 2021/22 financial year is committed and was restricted to projects in construction stage and sanitation programmes only,” Mthembu added.

Albert Chanee, Gauteng Education Department deputy director-general for strategic planning management, said 20 cases were reported since the schools closed in June.

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Chanee said 14 of the 20 schools were damaged between July 8 and 17 “during the social unrest period in the province”.

“Rehabilitation and replacement costs for the 14 schools are estimated at R38m,” he said.

Chanee also said six schools were still being assessed and would be costed.

He told MPs that since Covid-19 last year a total of 401 schools have been affected by arson, vandalism and break-ins.

A total of 54 schools were affected in the 2021 academic year at an estimated cost of R53m.

Vandalism costs were not planned and budgeted for in their infrastructure plans, he said..

“Additional funding and re-prioritisation of resources is required to address the affected schools. Work would be addressed through the existing maintenance framework contract,” he said.

Granville Whittle, the national department’s deputy director-general, said the damages in the two provinces took place as they were still repairing more than 1 700 schools damaged since the Covid-19 outbreak.

Whittle said looting was mostly of ICT and administration equipment as well as food for the school nutrition programme.

His report showed that a total of 1 882 schools were vandalised since 2020 March across the country.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said losing infrastructure was one of the big challenges in the education sector.

“Losing one school or getting damaged from vandalism is a big problem. We have suffered severe challenges in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng,” Motshekga said.

KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu said the infrastructure damages added to backlogs of schools damaged by criminal elements and schools damaged by inclement weather, which could not be repaired due to budget cuts.

“Most of the things we hoped to proceed with had to be kept in abeyance,” Mshengu said, as he recounted that the province had to cut its personnel.

DA MP Baxolele Nodada said they should condemn the recent criminal behaviour during the protests.

“There is no justification to destroy what is already there,” Nodada said.

His sentiments were echoed by ANC MP Patamedi Ronald Moroatshehla, who described the vandalism as hooliganism, primitive and barbaric acts.

“Any person destroying what he will need tomorrow is barbarian,” Moratshehla said.

Basic education portfolio committee chairperson Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba said it was unfortunate that schools became the first targets during unrest.

“It is wrong for communities to see that as an opportunity and steal the food, to go and vandalise schools they need the most,” she said.

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Political Bureau