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Luzuko Primary School in Sweetwaters township near King William’s Town embodies the infrastructure crisis in the Eastern Cape. The classrooms are built from prefabricated boards, half of which are in a very bad state. The walls and the roof are broken and the paint has peeled. The chairperson of the school governing body, Thembani Booi says that despite promises made by the department of education at a roundtable discussion in April this year, nothing has been done to remedy the situation.

“While there are improvements and developments in other Eastern Cape schools such as Eyabantu at Fort Beaufort and Imiqhayi Secondary School in Mount Coke location, nothing has changed for Luzuko School except a telephone call three months ago asking the number of prefabs we have applied for,” said Thembani. “Our school has serious structural damages that can pose danger to learners. It is those prefabs that were erected in 1999 that are in bad shape and disintegrating because they were meant to last for five years, but now it is 24 years.”

The decayed condition of prefab classrooms at Luzuko Primary School.

Most of the learners at Luzuko are from the area but many come from the nearby communities of Zwelitsha, Tshatshu and Golfcourse. Lusanele Daniso, a grade 7 learner, said that her classroom is extremely cold during winter since there is a big hole in the roof. It is not only the roof that is damaged but the entire structure of the building and the doors and windows as well. “Everyone in our class, including teachers, is scared to write on the board since it might fall down at any given time. One of our teachers always asks to move to another class because of the unfavourable conditions in our classroom,” said Daniso.

She described her classroom as having big rats scrounging for food on the floor, damaging stationery, and a bees’ nest that learners touched in their attempts to remove the honey.

Amanda Ntshebe, an activist from the local Labour Community Media Forum revealed that the school had recently relocated the younger children to the worst classrooms. “Older children used to be in the dilapidated prefabs but now since they complained they have been relocated to the better prefabs and now it is the learners in lower grades who must bear the brunt,” said Amanda.  

Another resident, Sibusisiwe Mlenze said her grandchild, Lelethu, is afraid that the roof of their classroom could fall at any time especially when there is strong wind. “By now the principal of the school knows me because I have been fighting with him for many years over the condition of the school. All they know at the school is to ask R5 every week despite the R150 we pay as parents every year. The school is very good in withholding reports of the learners until payment is made and they are also using excessive corporal punishment,” she said.

Some of the prefabs are in good condition at Luzuko but half of them are in a dire state.

In April this year, the director for infrastructural planning at the Eastern Cape Department of Education, Thabang Monare, revealed that over 2,000 schools of the just over 5,000 schools in the province have serious backlogs. More than a thousand schools lack electricity while over 100 schools still have pit latrines. In addition to inadequate budgets, Monare said that an over-reliance on external implementing agencies and inefficient supply chain management are some of the challenges facing the department.

Despite all the challenges faced by Luzuko, the chairperson of the school governing body said the school still performs very well. Two weeks ago they learned that Luzuko had been rated second in the province in terms of management and leadership.