Education authorities, still reeling from the cost of repairing more than 20 schools that were damaged during violent community protests in Vuwani, Limpopo earlier this year, were dealt a fresh blow after yet another school was targeted by arsonists this week.
Normal schooling had been set to resume in the area on Wednesday, but the arson attack on the Mugoidwa Secondary School cast a large shadow over efforts to restore normalcy to the area.
Basic education department spokesman Elijah Mhlanga said about R440 million was needed to repair and reconstruct the schools that were damaged in the earlier incidents of violence, and that this was no set to increase further following the latest attack.
“This incident just increased the cost, which is a problem because we are already going to ask money for those schools, and we must now go back and make an additional request,” said Mhlanga.
“We are extremely worried; already the province has a backlog when it comes to school infrastructure and there are schools that are yet to be repaired from the natural disasters that happened previously due to rains and winds.”
At least 23 schools were gutted in May after Vuwani residents lost a high court bid to have a Municipal Demarcation Board decision that incorporated their area under a new municipality reversed.
The spate of violence badly affected schooling and when schools reopened on Wednesday, the legacy of the protests was all too visible.
At Avhatodwi Primary School, pupils resumed schooling under a tree, while at other schools, children were also still waiting for mobile classrooms to be delivered.
“This (Mugoidwa) is going to cause a huge stress on our resources, because it needs us to go back and reprioritise, and that means something is going to suffer somehow.
“There are other schools that are in bad shape that needed fixing and we can’t even do that because of the damage that is taking place.”
In addition to the physical repair of schools, Mhlanga said that mobile classrooms and furniture needed to be procured immediately to facilitate teaching.
Despite the challenges, however, Mhlanga said they were impressed with the turnout of learners at schools, saying teaching and learning was continuing, “even in this school which has been burnt”.
– African News Agency (ANA)