Komani school described as grave danger

Pupils and staff members injured by broken wooden floors

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One of the oldest schools in Komani poses a grave danger to its pupils and teachers because of its dilapidated structure and broken wooden floors.
Louis Rex Primary School – which has topped the department’s priority list for a new building since 2015 – is crammed far beyond its capacity of 900 pupils this year.
School principal Bevan Christoffels said the school had about 1,430 pupils and 37 teachers who shared 24 toilets.
The 80-year-old school buildings in New Rest township are made of rotting wood mixed with prefabs. The aged wooden floors are full of holes and rotten spots, while the ceilings are falling down in several places.
In some classrooms holes have been patched but the creaks and groans caused by people walking strike fear.
“The small classrooms are packed with 50 pupils each. The rotten floors have already caused injuries to both teachers and pupils,” Christoffels said.
He said the roof was made of asbestos, which is a health risk for both teachers and pupils.
Asbestos fibres are so dangerous it is illegal for an employer to put any person at risk of exposure to them. It was banned in SA in 2008 as it contains carcinogens. Yet many schools still contain the material, especially in rural areas.
“Constantly we send pupils to hospital or clinics who have been injured because of the holes in classrooms and it is a miracle that no one has sustained critical injuries.”
Christoffels said another worry was that because the school structure was so frail it was a favourite target of criminals, who break in and steal school materials.
“These conditions, together with overcrowding in our classrooms, affects teaching and learning as pupils don’t get the attention they need and there is not enough space,” he said.
“We are short of three teachers, and that has led us to hiring three people on school governing body [SGB] posts to ease the pressure.”
The principal said the safety of the pupils was a priority but that could not be said in Louis Rex because of the conditions.
“After we were placed first on the list of priority schools to be built in 2015, building plans and preparations were all done,” said Christoffels.
SGB chair Johannes Stefanns said all their attempts to have the department commit to a building date had fallen short.
“There is a desperate need for a new building. It is painful to watch children learning under these conditions,” he said.
DA shadow MEC on education Edmund van Vuuren said despite the school’s long wait with no attempt by the department to ease its plight, Louis Rex would have to wait still longer as there was no budget to build schools this financial year. “The school is overflowing,” he said.
“Numerous accidents have occurred, with teachers and pupils being badly hurt from falling through the floors or hit by falling bits of ceiling.”
Van Vuuren promised to ask questions of the education MEC Mlungisi Mvoko in the Bhisho legislature.
The department had promised to respond by 2pm on Wednesday but by print deadline had not done so...

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