No more beating around the bush for high school

By Aretha Linden

Pupils from Vukile Tshwete Senior Secondary School might finally get new premises.

STATE OF DISREPAIR: Vukile Tshwete Senior Secondary School in Keiskammahoek is nothing but a dilapidated wooden structure that has fallen apart over the years. There was no sign of construction work at the site earmarked for the construction of the new school about 300m away Picture: RANDELL ROSKRUGE

The decades-old wooden school on the outskirts of Keiskammahoek is the subject of discussions between project managers, the Coega Development Corporation (CDC), and the provincial education department.

Both CDC and the department say builders should start arriving within months.

The Dispatch visited the school on Thursday. Three classrooms were abandoned. Wooden walls and ceilings have completely collapsed.

The entire structure was deemed unsafe years ago, and the school was earmarked by the department for a new building at a new site 300m away.

The school community has waited for almost 10 years for this to happen, said deputy principal Thabisa Njamela.

“I can’t remember the exact year when the department [of education] first promised to build us a new school, but it’s close to 10 years ago. Every year after that they gave us false hope by promising to start building at a certain date and when the date arrives, nothing happens,” said Njamela.

A signpost at the entrance informing the public of visiting hours is a stark reminder that during apartheid the premises was once a Ciskei Defence Force military base.

The base was abandoned in 1996 and now close to 340 pupils occupy the wooden barracks which once housed the regime’s soldiers.

In the remaining seven classrooms, entire panels are missing from the walls. Pupils get wet when it rains as water drips through the broken roof.

However, staff have over the years found their own way to patch holes in the walls.

Because the school is located in a remote area surrounded by thick bush, snakes can be a problem in summer, said Njamela.

The new 80000m² site was fenced off last year with expensive high-security fencing, but all that is on the site is bush.

In a national newspaper in November, the CDC said construction of the new Vukile Tshwete and Hector Peterson High School, in Zwelitsha would commence at the beginning of this year.

At Hector Peterson, some of the structures, including 10 classrooms, the computer room, library and science lab that were found to be unsafe, would be demolished and rebuilt, according to the education department.

CDC spokesman Ayanda Vilakazi said they had been ready to go out on tender on the project since the beginning of this year.

“We received instructions from the department of education to hold back on the tender due to the finalisation of the department’s internal processes,” he said.

Education spokesman Loyiso Pulumani said there were changes to the designs which the design team had to comply with, including environmentally friendly specifications and a change from single-storey to double-storey.

Pulumani said construction on Vukile Tshwete was expected to start in July, followed by Hector Peterson in August. — arethal@dispatch.co.za

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