Pietermaritzburg - The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education will consider entering into agreements with power utility Eskom and individual municipalities in a bid to ensure that there is a constant water and electricity supply in schools, Education MEC Mthandeni Dlungwane said on Friday.
Addressing members of the portfolio committee on education, the MEC said they were concerned that some schools were not paying their accounts and this was jeopardising learning.
This comes after eThekwini Municipality suspended its services to a number of schools after it emerged that they owed the municipality over R80 million. The hefty bill became public at a recent eThekwini Exco meeting.
"I have had discussions with Mayor Zandile Gumede over the matter and since then services have resumed, and we hope that this will not happen again,” said Dlungwane.
Recently Members of the Provincial Legislature (MPLs) undertook a fact-finding mission on the functionality of schools across the province and discovered that in some schools water and electricity bills had not been paid.
According to the MEC the problem of paying for services was not limited to eThekwini, but was found across the province.
"The problem is we are talking about schools that get allocations for learner support material, as well as for paying for water and electricity which they are clearly not doing. You cannot risk having a school with flushed toilets not having water because somebody did not pay," said Dlungwane.
This, the MEC told committee members, had prompted the department to consider a long-term plan to deal with the challenge. The department believes that by dealing directly with service providers, there will be no disruption of education.
The MEC also appealed to committee members to support the department to get a better budget allocation in order to meet its mandate of providing quality education to all learners in the province. He said while the R47 billion allocation for 2017/2018 financial year looked massive, it could not meet the challenges as most of it went into the compensation of employees.
"When 80% of your budget pays employees, programmes such as infrastructure, roll-out of libraries and teacher training will be affected," said Dlungwane in pleading for committee support for an improved allocation.
This week it emerged that the department had a number of senior level positions that remain vacant, including those of directors, subject advisors and principals.
African News Agency/ANA