Ricochet News

Equal Education pickets outside Coega offices in East London

By Yolanda Palezweni - Oct 20, 2017
Equal Education pickets outside Coega offices in East London

Members of Equal Education on Wednesday picketed outside the offices of the Coega Development Corporation in East London to demand accountability of implementing agents (IAs) and oversight of contractors at schools.

According to Equal Education, the infrastructure of public schools in the Eastern Cape is in a crisis condition. Implementing agents such as Coega Development Corporation manage and plan the building of schools on behalf of the national Department of Basic Education as well as the Eastern Cape Department of Education.  

The organisation added that the various actors responsible for fixing our schools, including governmental and non-governmental actors and State-owned entities like Coega, have not succeeded in their mandate to undo the Apartheid government’s systemic underdevelopment of our learning environments.  

Speaking to RNEWS, Equal Education Eastern Cape Head, Luzuko Sidimba, said that infrastructure is built slowly, of a poor quality; and, often times, not at all and many learn in schools which are in dire need of upgrading. This is dangerous, as structures can collapse on us at any minute.

He said that Coega is failing to do the job it was hired for highlighting that there are schools like Steve Vukile Thswete in Zwelitsha, outside King Williams Town, that the Coega Development Corporation supposed to have finished a long time ago, but since 2015, there hasn’t been any progress.

 “When it’s raining learners are forced to stay at home because classrooms are in bad condition and that affect learners in their syllabus also contributing to negative matric results at the end of the year,” said Sidimba.

He added that the organisation has sat in several meetings with the Department of Education and nothing has been done.

So, they decided to picket not at the department, but at these agencies because they feel they are too relaxed.

“They need to account to the public because the allocated funds to them is public funds therefore they need to account to parents, school learners and communities at large and they must not only think they answer to the department only,” he said.

Sidimba further said that, as of 29 November 2016, the Regulations Relating to the Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure state that all public schools must have running water, electricity, and be made of appropriate materials - not mud, wood, zinc or asbestos.

“The poor infrastructure in our schools, much of which was meant to be fixed by Coega, is not only morally wrong, but also illegal.

“For the 2017/18 financial year, Coega Development Corporation has been allocated 71 new projects and an initial budget of R262 446 000 from the ECDOE, Coega Development Corporation is responsible for hiring competent built environment professionals and contractors, and ensuring that they get the job done,” added Sidima.

“We are here today because Coega Development Corporation is accountable to us as their clients and we want to see the fruits of R262 446 000 given to them to Fix Our Schools.”

According to Sidima, Vukile Tshwete Senior Secondary, in Qobo is made entirely of wood, which is an inappropriate building material.

“In June 2016 Coega Development Corporation went to the school to make assessments for the rebuilding of the school, which was meant to begin in the same year. Because of problems with their tender processes, the building of the school has been delayed for at least a year,” he said.

He added that Hector Peterson High School, King Williams Town, is awaiting new building, toilet block, administrative block, and nutrition centre.

“Plans for the School have changed from a re-building of a new school to a renovation. Neither has been done, or even started. Coega Development Corporation has allegedly restarted the tender; however they have not made any communication with the schools,” said Sidima.

However, the Equal Education demanded that Coega Development Corporation to provides a written response to every individual case of communication and service delivery failure which we have highlighted.

“These schools must be told in writing when the building of the school is going to be complete and why progress has been delayed and this must be done within 14 working days,” said Sidima.

“Coega Development Corporation must commit to provide a temporary infrastructure solution for all of the schools on its project list in which infrastructure poses a threat to learner’s lives, where there are insufficient toilets, and where there are unhygienic sanitation facilities, within 30 working days,” he further added.

Sidima added that Equal Education also demanded that the Coega Development Corporation to update its project list as well as the data and publish it to their website within 20 working days.

A Memorandum was handed over to Thembeka Poswa, the programme manager at the ECDOE, who meets, with Equal Education on a regular basis to discuss the progress of building school infrastructure in the province.