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‘New school full of defects’

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There was no stakeholder engagement around the completion and opening of the school.

PARENTS of pupils at the newly-built Steynville Primary School in Hopetown are fuming after their children were forced to attend school in what they regard as a construction site.

The school was opened by Northern Cape Premier Zamani Saul and the MEC for Education, Mac Jack, on Tuesday last week, a day before schools reopened for the 2020 academic year.

According to the project’s readiness report by the acting district director, the project’s original contract amount was R51.8 million with an approved variation order of R7.3 million for additional work.

Work on the project by the contractor was supposed to have started in March 2017 and been completed in September 2018.

The parents say that their joy of finally having a new primary school was spoiled by safety concerns after a pupil was almost injured when a basin crashed to the floor while she was busy washing her hands.

According to the parents, the opening of the school was a relief to them as they could cut the transport cost of their children having to travel to Oranje Rivier Primary School on a daily basis.

The parents, together with the school governing body (SGB) and several teachers, however, believe that the process of opening the school was rushed, regardless of whether it was safe.

They are concerned that windows are broken, that the windows in the classrooms do not open and that the ceilings in parts of the school need to be fixed.

They further claim that the boys’ toilets became blocked on the first day of school and the installation of water pumps was not completed.

They added that the air conditioners in the hall and in the staff room are not working and that several plugs are damaged.

They also said that there are no chalkboards in the classrooms.

Their other concerns are that the sports field looks more like a dumping site and that the school has no emergency exit except for the small and main gate which faces onto the busy main road.

The parents also highlighted the fact that their children are still caught up in the excitement of the new school and do not see the dangers.

According to the parents, they wanted to raise their concerns with the premier on the day he opened the school, but were prevented from doing so and told that it was the wrong platform to raise their issues.

They are convinced that the delegation who attended the opening was embarrassed by the fact that a water pipe burst and water spilled on the premier when they attempted to switch on the air conditioner.

“It was very embarrassing and they all pretended to laugh it away. That is why they did not want us to speak at the ceremony,” said one of the parents.

An SGB member, Daniel Seekoei, said that there was no stakeholder engagement around the completion and opening of the school.

“We were just invited to the opening of the new school and were shocked at the many defects.

“We did, however, contact the contractor, who came to fix some of the defects on Wednesday and Thursday,” said Seekoei.

The Northern Cape Department of Education acknowledged having received a list of minor defects from its district office relating to the new Steynville Primary School building.

Department spokesperson Geoffrey van der Merwe stated that the defects did not preclude them from opening the school.

“We are engaging the implementing agent, the Independent Development Trust (IDT) in this regard, so that the work can be finalised,” said van der Merwe.

He said that the department intends withholding the retention money until all defects have been attended to by the main contractor.

“Retention money is generally held back to ensure that a contractor performs all of its obligations under the contract, and is then released either on practical completion or after the end of a defects notification period.

“We will ensure the safety of pupils and teachers while repair work is being done,” concluded Van der Merwe.