Emergency school repairs drain budget

THE Western Cape Education Department’s emergency maintenance budget is buckling under the cost of repairing damage to schools, which is set to run into millions of rand. 

With eight months of this financial year remaining, the department has indicated it already expected to run over budget. 

The department allocated R9.3 million for emergency maintenance for the 2011/12 financial year but, despite this being R1m more than the allocation of the previous year, it was still not going to be enough. 

Contributing to the pressure were the costs of repairs to flood-damaged schools, mainly in the Southern Cape, estimated at R3.4m. 

Bronagh Casey, spokeswoman for Education MEC Donald Grant, said the department also had to pay for repairs to schools damaged by fires, vandalism, burst water pipes and roof leaks from the emergency maintenance budget. 

Last week the department said it had spent more than R640 000 of the emergency maintenance budget between April and July on repairs to 13 vandalised schools. 

More than 330 cases of vandalism were reported to the department’s Safe Schools division in the first two terms of this year. 

“We will now have to prioritise emergency spending to those schools with the most urgent needs, especially those that affect the health and safety of our learners,” Casey said. 

The flood damage to schools occurred in May when severe weather conditions led to the temporary closure of several Western Cape schools. 

Several other schools reported high absenteeism as many teachers and pupils were unable to get to schools because bridges and roads were flooded. 

The worst-affected towns included George, Mossel Bay, Riversdale, Knysna, Uniondale and Oudtshoorn. 

Casey said schools and officials had submitted quotes for repair work to 51 schools. Quotes from nine schools had not yet been received. 

Most of the schools had experienced damage to roofs, ceilings and doors. 

The worst-affected school was PW Botha College in George. 

“The school experienced severe flooding, causing damage to their hostel, hall and four classrooms. The roof, ceilings and tiled floors were all affected and need repair work.” 

She said the floods had highlighted the unforeseen demands placed on the department to sustain repair work. 

“This kind of scenario (severe weather) is simply beyond our control, and is unpredictable.” 

Casey added that the department was re-examining its overall allocation for maintenance, including scheduled maintenance, to free up funds for emergency maintenance. 

The department has allocated R108.2m for scheduled maintenance in the 2011/12 financial year.

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