DA continues fight for replacement of fire-gutted EC school

Issued by Marina van Zyl MP – New Horizon Constituency Leader
20 Jan 2023 in Press Statements

After almost two years of fighting to have a fire-gutted school in Aliwal North replaced, the DA is now taking the fight to both national and provincial government levels.

In May 2021, a fire caused massive destruction of infrastructure at the Alheit van der Merwe Primary School, and despite numerous promises of intervention by the Eastern Cape Department of Education, the school is still in a decrepit and dangerous state.

Yesterday, 19 January 2023, I was joined by Eastern Cape Education Portfolio Committee member, Yusuf Cassim MPL, in conducting an oversight inspection at the school. (pictures here and here)

The school gates were locked, but we were able to engage with concerned parents and residents.

Despite committing to providing seven additional classrooms and an ablution facility, a large portion of the learners are still being taught in seven dilapidated and dangerous prefab classrooms.

Immediately after the fire gutted the school, Mr Cassim escalated the matter to the Department.

A year later, when it was clear that the Department had still done nothing about the situation, Mr Cassim conducted an oversight inspection at the school, where he still found the school in ruins. (pictures here and here)

He engaged further with the Department, writing letters and tabling questions in the provincial legislature. The head of infrastructure indicated that a replacement school is needed, but that for the interim, he had put together a project that would provide additional classrooms and ablution facilities.

Mr Cassim has made it a point to be part of this week’s school visits in the Joe Gqabi District to specifically follow up on the promises made regarding the replacement school and the commitment to provide additional classrooms and ablution facilities.

On Wednesday, 18 January 2023, at a district meeting in Barkley East, a delegation from the portfolio committee for education was informed that R11 million has been made available to replace the school and that the tender process closed in November last year. However, no contractor has been appointed, and no timeline has been provided for when work will begin.

He raised concerns about the school not being on the list of replacement schools and asked when a replacement school will be provided and specifications regarding timelines for the classrooms and ablution facilities.

The committee delegation has given the Department seven days to furnish detailed timelines and plans.

The DA has committed that we will return within seven days to provide the community with feedback.

As a member of the parliamentary portfolio committee for education, I will be taking the matter up with the minister of basic education. Mr Cassim will also raise the issue in the legislature.

The DA will continue the fight and will walk with this community to ensure that these learners receive proper education in a safe school environment.