Damage stops classes

Teachers and pupils at Itsitsa Primary School in Mfuleni are battling to pick up the pieces after the school sustained massive damage during last week’s storm.

The roof was blown away, forcing the teachers to halt their work for several days and efforts are still under way to bring the situation back to normal.

The school is one of 135 in the province which reported storm damage to the Western Cape Education Department’s Safe Schools call centre, with 41 schools reporting damage to their roofs.

Principal Simphiwe Ulana said he was not happy to close the school, but had no other option.

“Due to to the damage by the storm, our children are not at school.

We explained to them and they understood. We could not take the risk of allowing them to be at the premises. It’s the same with teachers. We are letting them go early because this weather can come back,” he said.

He said their future would be determined by the time it would take to fix the damage and that the WCED district office had promised to sort out the damage soon.

Mr Ulana said he was concerned that the school, which opened less than two years ago, had sustained such damage.

“It is worrying in terms of quality. This school is less than two years old. It came as a shock to me when I was called about the damage to the building,” he said.

Mxolisi Mnkqayi said as parents they were concerned that pupils were roaming the streets when they should be in class.

He, however, said he believed the department had made the right call when it closed all schools last Wednesday.

“I think we need to thank the education department for allowing the school to be off on the day of the storm.

“Some of us were questioning that decision, but we have to eat a humble pie and thank them.

“Imagine if children were at school on the day…”

Mr Mnkqayi said he hoped there would be interventions to help the pupils catch up on work they were missing.

Jessica Shelver, spokesperson for education MEC Debbie Schäfer, said the Department of Transport and Public Works had activated “emergency procurement measures” to ensure that things were back to normal as soon as possible and to prevent further damage to buildings.

Ms Shelver said WCED inspectors had already visited the worst hit schools.

“Once we have received the reports on all schools, the total cost of damages and the extent of damages, we will determine the strategy going forward and the prioritisation of reparations works.The department will fix minor damages as soon as possible.

“Major repairs will take longer. These will need further investigation and procurement procedures,” she said.