Teachers and pupils shut down Zanokhanyo Junior Secondary School in Butterworth, in the Eastern Cape, on Monday.
The school in Zazulwana village has 471 pupils.
Parents said the school was built 35 years ago using prefabricated materials and that it was now in an unacceptable condition and dangerous for children. They said the pit latrines were rotten and unsafe.
“Now these prefabs are rotten … We went to the department of education at the district level to ask them to build a school for us. We reported the matter at the provincial level. We were promised that they were going to check out the problem. It has been 12 years now, waiting for them to come with a solution,” said Nobuntu Lavisa, a parent.
“The classrooms have holes in the walls. It is very cold and windy as we speak today.”
Community leader Sibabaliwe Dadaboshe said: “These children are not safe in their school. Why does our government act only when something happens? I am saying this because if a child is hit by zinc [roofing] or a pole here, government officials come running … ”
She said snakes were found every few weeks in the classrooms.
“Our school gets an annual maintenance budget but it is too small to maintain rotten material. Our school principal has been buying zinc sheets so that he can fix those holes, but we stopped him because when there is a heavy wind they can fly off and hit people,” she said.
Eastern Cape education spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima said an assessment had found there was a “huge backlog” at the school and insufficient funds.
“We currently have R73bn needed for this school and many more in the Eastern Cape,” he said.
However, the department had R1.5bn available.
“That is why we at times encourage the use of norms and standards maintenance budgets to plug holes and broken windows as a stop-gap measure, while the department is working with districts to reprioritise where necessary to ensure those in dire conditions get their schools first,” said Mtima.
– Originally published on GroundUp.