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MEC meets with Sol over schools

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“The department is very concerned about the finances at some schools and we will provide support and strengthen governance at schools and their school governing bodies”

THE NORTHERN Cape MEC for Education, Mac Jack, met with the Sol Plaatje Municipality yesterday regarding arrears owed to the municipality by schools in the city.

Education Department spokesperson Lehuma Ntuane confirmed yesterday that the meeting focused on pertinent issues affecting schools, including arrears monies owed by schools for basic services and electricity.

The aim of the meeting was to look at arrangements that could be made for schools that are in arrears to prevent basic services being cut by the local authority.

The meeting included the principals and governing body chairpersons of the affected schools, as well as department officials, and the Sol Plaatje Municipality.

“Schools also raised serious concerns relating to technical matters, historical debt relating to community disaster relief, billing tariffs and accounts as well as multiple water meters at schools,” Ntuane said.

He added that it was agreed to investigate the issues raised and determine the way forward within 14 days to resolve all matters from both the perspective of the Sol Plaatje Municipality and the department.

“The department is very concerned about the finances at some schools and we will provide support and strengthen governance at schools and their school governing bodies,” Ntuane said.

He added that similar engagements would be scheduled in due course in other municipal areas where schools were also at risk of having their electricity cut due to non-payment.

“Valuable learning and teaching time is of paramount importance to the quality of education.”

Ntuane did not indicate how much was owed to the Sol Plaatje Municipality by local schools.

Recently the department warned schools in the Province that there were no funds available to bail them out if they were affected by municipal or Eskom disconnections.

The department said at the time that money owed could only be paid after April.

This followed the cutting of power to Garies High School. According to the DA, the school was said to owe as much as R900 000 to the Kamiesberg Municipality.

The Northern Cape Department of Education stated at the time that it would not be able to give financial assistance or bail out schools that could not pay for services due to the unavailability of budgets for such purposes as well as severe financial constraints on the department.