Gauteng plans to borrow billions for new schools

Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi is pictured during a media briefing in Johannesburg, 08 January 2019, outlining the province's state of readiness ahead of the start of the school year. Picture: Refilwe Modise

Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi is pictured during a media briefing in Johannesburg, 08 January 2019, outlining the province's state of readiness ahead of the start of the school year. Picture: Refilwe Modise

The money would be used to get rid of ’embarrassing’ mobile and asbestos schools in the next five years.

The Gauteng education department plans to borrow almost R8.5 billion to get rid of the remaining 17 mobile and asbestos schools in the province by 2024.

MEC Panyaza Lesufi announced this at the department’s state-of-readiness address ahead of the province’s schools opening today.

He said the department had already budgeted for the eradication of asbestos schools.

“We have gone to private markets and asked for almost R8.5 billion so that we can get rid of the schools that we believe we don’t need in Gauteng completely,” said Lesufi. “We are now in the process of receiving the money for the eradication. More information will be communicated when the programme is finalised.”

Where infrastructure was concerned, pit toilets was always an issue critics turned to when they wanted to talk down on “the good things the department is doing”.

The remaining two pit toilets in the province had been eradicated a long time ago, he said.

The province was one of the few that met with the minimum standards of infrastructure – the only problem now was the remaining asbestos and mobile schools.

“Some schools in Gauteng are embarrassing. We don’t want to be embarrassed any more so we are removing all of them. We have received permission to borrow the money and we are giving ourselves the next five years to get rid of these schools.”

Lesufi also confirmed the department’s stance on late applications. Those who had only approached departments late to find schools for their children would be helped last.

The expectation that their children would be placed was impossible due to the waiting list and “they would not receive preference”.

Only 5.7% of the 280 000 applications for the year had their placements taken away because they had not responded to follow-ups from the department on time. This group would now be placed under “late applications”.

“All districts are operating as walk-in centres to assist parents with late applications.”

INFO

No ‘nice-to-haves’ here

  • NGO Equal Education said although it welcomed the Gauteng department of education’s commitment to improving school infrastructure, it battled to understand why GDE had to seek funds from the private sector.
  • Co-head of research Hopolang Selebalo said: “We fail to understand why the GDE would need to source funds from the private sector, while it is tapping into public funds to purchase nice-to-haves, such as tablets.”
  • She also said the plan to eradicate schools made of inappropriate material in 2024 was concerning because it would be eight years past its due date, which was set at 2016 by law.
  • “The GDE has failed to meet this deadline, condemning pupils to attend unsafe schools, made of a substance known to have severe health consequences. It’s crucial that these schools be replaced as soon as possible,” said Selebalo.

jenniffero@citizen.co.za

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