BROKEN PROMISES: NORTHERN CAPE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION FAILS TO DELIVER ON ITS PLAN FOR LEARNERS OF ASBESTOS-POLLUTED SCHOOL

 

Khiba School 1

One of the half mobile classrooms delivered with broken windows to Ga Mopedi Primary School for use by learners and educators of Khiba Junior Secondary School

Johannesburg, 26 January 2015 – In late 2014, Khiba Junior Secondary School, a school serving around 200 mostly poor learners in Ga-Mopedi Village in the JT Gaetsewe District of the Northern Cape, was closed by the Department of Labour because of concern around asbestos pollution. The extent of the pollution had been measured and described in a Department of Environmental Affairs report in 2006 which was ignored by authorities in the Northern Cape until the School Governing Body (SGB) at Khiba, having fought for the rights of the learners and educators at the school for years without success, turned to SECTION27 for legal assistance. The threat of litigation finally precipitated action.

The Northern Cape Department of Education put together a plan that, while imperfect, was largely welcomed by the SGB and the community. The Department of Education undertook to ensure the delivery of five mobile classrooms to Ga-Mopedi Primary School, a school close to the Khiba building but significantly less polluted by asbestos, for use by Khiba pending the construction of a new school at a site identified by the community and approved by the Department of Environmental Affairs and the Department of Labour. The mobile classrooms were to be delivered and ready for use before the start of the new school year on 21 January 2015.

When learners arrived for the new school year on 21 January, they found nothing but two separate halves of a single a mobile classroom, with most of its windows broken, in the dusty yard of Ga-Mopedi Primary School. They and their disappointed teachers set about carrying the desks, chairs, books and other equipment from the Khiba building to their new ‘school’. No transport was provided for this purpose. Ninety Grade 8 learners are squeezed into one available classroom at Ga-Mopedi Primary, two Grade 9 classes try to learn in another available classroom and the two Grade 10 classes each occupy one of the mobile classrooms halves, which had been placed one meter apart but not joined by the contractors who delivered them after hours. Another half mobile classroom arrived the following day, also with most of its windows broken. Yet another half mobile classroom was delivered over the weekend. Still, none of the classrooms are complete and are not conducive to teaching and learning.

Despite attempts to communicate with the Northern Cape Department of Education through numerous telephone calls and a letter to the office of the Head of Department and the District Director, nothing has been done. The learners at Khiba continue to be disadvantaged as their constitutional right to basic education is violated directly through the inaction of the Department of Education following years of exposure to asbestos pollution with the knowledge of the Departments of Education and of Labour.

SECTION27 calls on the Northern Cape Department of Education to ensure that, by 28 January 2015, a week after the start of the school year, five mobile classrooms, without broken windows, whose halves are connected to form whole classrooms, and are suitable for use for the purposes of teaching and learning, are delivered to Ga-Mopedi Primary School and set up for use by the learners and educators of Khiba.

For more information please contact:

Sasha Stevenson via email on stevenson@section27.org.za or telephonically on 082 839 6879.

ENDS