THE Department of Basic Education has embarked on an ambitious experiment that is expected to enable it to build more schools more cheaply and faster.
It usually takes about eight months or more to build a school in Gauteng, and rising costs have seen the department spending about R60 million to build a fully fledged public school with all the necessary resources and facilities.
But with the new method of building schools that is being tested by the department, construction can take two to three months, and cost about R30m.
The new construction method is an alternative to the traditional bricks and mortar that are usually used to build schools around the country. Instead, fibre cement is used to build walls which are supported by a steel structure and filled with a cement mixture.
The structure will be taken through rigorous testing to establish whether it can withstand aggressive weather patterns and judging by the success of the project in the Eastern Cape, the department might be on to something.
As part of the government’s attempts to eradicate mud schools in that province, at least three schools have already been built using this method.
Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane said yesterday the move would help the provincial government to accelerate the building of new schools in the province, especially in informal settlements.
During her State of the Province address last month, Mokonyane announced the province would spend R4.3 billion on building new schools, maintenance and the upgrading of existing schools.
Olievenhoutbosch Ext 4 and Lotus Gardens, in Pretoria West, will be the first to get such schools, while others will be built in other areas such as Diepsloot.
“We used to spend about R80m to build a school and now I am told this method will cost us about R33m to build a school. This means we can build more schools, but it does not mean the contractors must now increase their prices. In fact we must negotiate to take the price down so we can build more schools,” said Mokonyane.
She urged the community to take care of the schools and to utilise the skills transferred by the contractors building the schools to empower the community.
About 110 people from Olievenhoutbosch will be employed and trained during the project, and will also be accredited as having skills to engage in this construction.
Education MEC Barbara Creecy said the school would mainly enrol pupils from overcrowded schools in the area, and the plan was to move some of the additional teachers to the school. “This year we employed additional teachers to help out at overcrowded schools, so as we move those learners from those schools to the new one, we will also be moving some teachers.
“So we will not have a shortage of teachers at the school,” said Creecy.
The school will be equipped with a fully fledged library, a computer room and a scientific laboratory, while additional resources will include football, netball and basketball facilities. The school will also have an administration block and about 23 classrooms, including a separate area for Grade R pupils.
The new schools are a result of the province’s co-operation with the Independent Development Trust.