About 100 pupils at a rural KwaZulu-Natal high school may kick off the new term attending their classes under trees.
This follows heavy storms last week that destroyed one of only two classrooms at Enkangala Secondary School in Weeen.
The other classroom was still standing, but “precariously so”, the school governing body’s Shayina Sithole told The Mercury yesterday.
Sithole said the school’s management could not risk it collapsing with children inside. He said the matter had been reported to the circuit and district Education offices, but that officials had not been able to promise them temporary classrooms or say when new classrooms would be built.
As such, Sithole said, they would most likely be teaching outside from Monday.
The KZN Department of Basic Education’s Kwazi Mthethwa yesterday confirmed that more than 300 schools around the province had been affected by strong wind and rain over the past three weeks, and that the department was doing all it could to provide relief.
But rights organisation Equal Education said on Twitter at the weekend that the department had been aware of the risk at Enkangala since last year.
Equal Education’s head of national organising for KZN and Limpopo, Luyolo Mazwembe, said yesterday that the department knew the building was inadequate and that there was a risk that it was going to collapse on children.
He said everyone was lucky it had not collapsed during school hours.
He was planning to visit the school today.
“It’s frustrating. What happened at this school is a clear violation of the minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure.”
In 2013 the Department of Basic Education adopted the minimum norms and standards for schools infrastructure, which dictate the standards that the infrastructure of schools should meet.
The first deadline was last November, and it is now illegal for any school in South Africa not to have access to water, electricity or toilets, and for any school to be built of wood, mud, asbestos, or zinc.
Mthethwa said yesterday that more than 324 schools had been damaged and that the extent of the damage varied from school to school.
“Schools that have been affected have been compiled into a list,” he said. “The department will have to provide mobile classrooms where there’s urgency.”
Mthethwa said the speed at which the department could do this would depend on how severe the situation was.
“The MEC always puts much emphasis on the fact that the department must create and provide a conducive environment for learning,” he said.
“Unfortunately, however, there are processes that must be followed when dealing with the Treasury, and a lot of paperwork goes into these unplanned ‘projects’ that arise as a result of natural causes.
“We are forced to divert funds that were budgeted for other services. So it is not a simple matter.”