Kitchen at Gordon Primary School in Alexandra where teachers had borrowed money from the school and had not paid back, the school is dire need of computers, extra reading books and proper kitchen.016 Picture: Matthews Baloyi 6/22/2012

Teachers at a school in Alexandra have been using the institution as a loan shop – borrowing cash from its school fees and then failing to pay it back.

This is despite Gordon Primary School being in dire need of a kitchen, computers to equip its empty laboratory and books for its library.

The Star has seen documents confirming the loans, ranging from R1 000 to R16 000. At least six teachers and a parent, whose names are known to The Star Africa, have signed acknowledging their debt and committing to repay the loans.

The repayments were to be done in instalments over between two months and four months. The documents were signed in February, but none of the teachers have repaid the loan.

The Star Africa understands that it is a common practice among many schools to allow teachers to borrow cash from their school fees.

The loan scheme, described as rampant and uncontrolled, is said to have started in 2009 while Tim Makhale was the principal.

He resigned in 2010, but several sources said the “looting” continued after his tenure ended.

Makhale admitted that he had authorised the loans but defended his decision. “I am not going to deny that, because that’s exactly what I did. A (newly employed) teacher would spend about three months without being paid and would say he couldn’t get to school. Or a teacher comes from KwaZulu-Natal and struggles with rent. I took the decision to give those teachers loans,” Makhale said.

He added that the decision has been taken with the approval of the school governing body members.

From outside, the school looks impressive with its triple-storey facebrick building towering over the shanty township. But the tiny mobile kitchen, empty computer lab and gaping library shelves belie its wealthy appearance. “We have (workstation) space for over 40 computers, furnished with tables and chairs, but the lab is empty,” said a staffer, who asked that his identity not be revealed.

The library is also under-resourced. “We are short of curriculum books, novels and wall charts in the library. “We are struggling,” said another source.

There are three photocopiers in the library, but none works.

Precious learning and teaching time is wasted each break while more than 1 000 pupils queue to be served food at the makeshift kitchen. “We are short of a water boiler, pots, spoons, buckets, basins, a table and cloths. It makes our preparations and catering very slow. The queues will be long and this delays the lessons after break,” said another staffer.

The principal said he had reported the matter to the local district office. He declined to comment further and referred enquires to the Gauteng Education Department.

Departmental spokesman Charles Phahlane said an investigation was under way. Asked if criminal charges would be laid against the borrowers, he said: “The outcome of the investigation will determine who will be charged.”

The Star Africa