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The Lwandisa Primary School is still missing a roof over several classrooms since gale-force winds tore it off early last year. The learners, parents, teachers and SGB say they do not know when the roof will be fixed as numerous promises were made but never fulfilled by the education department in the province. Speaking during a briefing organised by the education district office around September last year, the principal said that there is money to fix the school but did not know what was causing the delay. Nokuzola Mbham, the secretary of the school governing body (SGB) said the department had promised to fix the roof and fence during the September school holidays but that did not happen.

It is not the first time the school has experienced severe storm damage: the roofing and fencing of the school was blown away by gales in 2019 and learners were forced to attend school without a roof over their heads. Mbham told Elitsha that the school’s roof has been blown off thrice in the past five years. “We go to DOE district offices at Rubusana and speak to authorities who in turn promise that they will call the MEC offices at Zwelitsha,” she said. The SGB visited Eastern Cape Department of Education’s (ECDOE) provincial headquarters in Zwelitsha but nothing helpful transpired.

The SGB has resorted to sharing the story of the dilapidated school with the SABC1 investigative programme, Cutting Edge. “As you see our school is in bad shape; there is no improvement while DOE is sending us from pillar to post. DOE is just removing us in front of their eyes. There is no fence; amaphara (drugged thugs) come in and out. There is dire shortage of classrooms; as you can see, we have added three bungalows and the DOE has not responded positively to our request for prefabs,” said an angry Nokuzola.

Qhayiya Yila, a grade 7 learner said, “Almost every year the roof collapses when there are strong winds. The school paint is also fading and needs to be renovated. We are not comfortable in our classrooms because sometimes we are four at these desks that are meant for 2 learners.”

“The toilets are also not in good condition since the sewerage pipes are leaking, not enough sinks and urinals and the whole area surrounding the toilets is damp,” said Akum Kuhle, a grade 7 learner.

Bhongolwethu Qongqo, also in grade 7 and who stays in Newlands just outside Mdantsane, said, “Our classes are overcrowded; we are about 87 learners in our class. Our classes are extremely cold. The entire roofs of three classrooms have been blown out by strong winds longtime ago. The roofs of the remaining rooms are also not stable, as you can see, they could collapse at any given time.”

Fundiswa Misile, a parent who resides in front of the school, said that Lwandisa’s condition is unacceptable, and the school desperately needs help. “Our school lacks basic level amenities and services that every school should have to function smoothly. The school is outdated, overcrowded and unsafe, and DOE has so far shown no willingness to urgently fix Lwandisa School” said Fundiswa.

Lwandisa is not the only school damaged by storms; there are 29 schools in the Buffalo City Municipality in urgent need of repair and rebuilding. According to ECDOE, procurement has been completed for all these schools including Lwandisa Primary School. “We urge our communities to be patient with the department as this project is at an advanced stage,” the ECDOE spokesperson said.