Home News NC Spring schools to cost R30 million

NC Spring schools to cost R30 million

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The schools are set up by the Northern Cape Department of Education and will support close to 8 000 Grade 12 learners.

File image. Picture: Timothy Bernard African News Agency (ANA)

THE WEEK-LONG Spring schools, set up by the Northern Cape Department of Education, which will support close to 8 000 Grade 12 learners, are set to cost R30 million.

This is according to Northern Cape Department of Education spokesperson, Geoffrey van der Merwe, who confirmed that the Spring schools, which started on Friday last week and will run until November 1, will support close to 8000 Grade 12 learners at 49 centres.

“The cost for the Spring schools amounts to R30 million, which is far less than the intended incubation camps, while more learners will benefit,” Van der Merwe added.

He was reacting to a statement from the Democratic Alliance’s Dr Isak Fritz, who called on Northern Cape Premier, Dr Zamani Saul, to investigate circumstances surrounding the cancelled Namaqua matric camp.

Fritz pointed out that the camp was set to be held in Kleinzee earlier this year, but was cancelled “even though massive amounts of preliminary expenditure was incurred”.

“At this time of national crisis, and with its history of poor expenditure management, the department cannot afford to waste funds meant to support matrics ahead of their most crucial exams. Claims that the department had spent R32 million on one camp when the budget for all provincial camps was calculated at R73 million must be investigated,” Fritz stated.

He added that the main contractor appointed to manage the camp was Clarissa Carsten.

“Her past dealings with the provincial government gives rise to questions which must be answered. One of the first questions is how it could be possible for a main contractor to incur massive expenditure when the department denies that money was spent.”

Fritz said that during his first oversight visit to the intended venue, he spoke to sub-contractors appointed by Carsten and tasked with cleaning, security arrangements, upgrades to the hostel’s plumbing and installation of new geysers.

“Preparations were advanced enough for learners to be accommodated with safety. The hostel’s canteen had received new stoves and fridges. Beds, food, and other necessities had been delivered.

“But at my second oversight visit at the same venue, however, I was surprised to see that only the new beds had remained. There was no trace of the stoves or fridges in the canteen.”

Fritz questioned where the money went and why. “We need to know which companies, sub-contractors, and cronies were appointed for which reasons.”

According to Van der Merwe, the Northern Cape Department of Education had initially intended to incubate approximately 3000 Grade 12 learners for a period of three months at seven incubation centres in the Province.

“Due to the impact of Covid-19 on the 2020 school academic year, we deemed it necessary to ensure that learners are well prepared for the 2020 National Senior Certificate Examinations,” Van der Merwe explained.

He stated, however, that after careful consideration, the department reconfigured its approach in terms of its matric intervention programme to ensure maximum participation and beneficiation for Grade 12 learners.

“Yes, the planned incubation camps were estimated at a cost of R70 million, only benefitting approximately 3000 learners. Therefore, the department cancelled the planned incubation camps and replaced it with the Spring schools, weekend lock-in sessions and Saturday classes.”

“The Spring schools will support close to 8000 Grade 12 learners at 49 centres. The cost for the Spring schools amounts to R30 million, which is far less than the intended Incubation Camps, while more learners will benefit.”

He said that the Department of Education had and always would have the interest of its learners at heart, to provide them with the maximum support they require to be successful in life.

“All our efforts are geared towards saving the school academic year and we would like to appeal to parents and learners to take full advantage of this opportunity to send their child to attend the matric intervention programmes. Learners will receive the best possible support and guidance during these sessions as they prepare for their final examination. We will monitor the progress of all our intervention programmes very closely to ensure that the desired impacts are made through teaching, learning and assessments.”

In response to the allegations levelled against her by the DA, Clarissa Carsten, stated that the “false accusations by the DA MPL Fritz is deeply disturbing and appalling to say the least. It hurts me to see that the DA wants to damage my reputation with slander.”

She stated further that she had been in contact with her attorneys and would be taking legal action against Fritz and the DA in the Northern Cape.

Carsten pointed out that as a woman from Namakwa, she not only provided a service to her clients, but also employed people who supported families.

“My business is not a secret. I am in the hospitality and facilities management industry. People come to me when they want the best in quality services, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic that requires that strict protocols are in place. I pride myself in providing just that, the best quality services.”

Carsten confirmed that Fritz had conducted an oversight visit to the proposed matric camp location.

“He did so on his own accord and without notifying me. Had he taken the time to liaise with me, I would have gladly walked him through the entire facility. Unfortunately he did not grant me this opportunity and instead relied on rumours and not facts.”

She pointed out that the equipment on the premises did not belong to the Department of Education, but was specially hired for the matric camps.

“These were just some of the costs incurred and paid by myself. The R32 million mentioned by Dr Fritz is not even close to the truth and my quotation, accepted by the department at the time, was not even a third of the mentioned amount.”

She pointed out that the quotations for the Namakwa camp were also less than the other camps in other districts.

“The department postponed and later cancelled the camps. The learners were heartbroken when they learned that the camps were cancelled. Unfortunately, I cannot give any explanation as to why this happened, but I was deeply saddened for the sake of the learners as well as the unemployed crew from Komaggas, Buffelsrivier and Kleinzee who relied on the income.”

Carsten added that accusations by Dr Fritz that she was involved in shady government deals was defamatory and an insult to the values of her company.

“This is also a clear indication of Dr Fritz and his cronies’ personal vendetta against me. These politically-driven vendettas are taking food out of the mouths of children whose parents are employed by women like me in this province. Everyone who knows me, knows that I do not get involved in kickbacks and corruption.”