Failure to pay contractors leads to learner protests – DA NWest

Learners took to streets, burnt tyres and hid bus keys in protest at insufferable circumstances

NW Department of Education’s failure to pay contractors leads to learner protests

25 August 2019

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in North West visited the Onkgopotse Tiro Comprehensive School at Klippan on Thursday, 22 August 2019, following the ongoing protests by learners amid the matric record exams.

From our engagement with the staff, we established that the refurbishment of the hostels has been dragging on for more than a year. It was disconcerting to witness the little work that had been done over this period of time. See pictures here, here and here.

The reason cited for the delay was that the Department of Education failed to pay contractors on time. Not only does it affect learning, but it also stifles job creation and economic growth in the area, as the small-scale contractors are fully reliant on these contracts.

Subsequently, approximately 600 learners staying there have been located to hostels in Mafikeng, which is 40km away. Learners get up early and travel to school by bus – a situation that is not conducive to quality education.

We have further noted that the dilapidated and run-down buildings on the school premises that poses a safety hazard to learners. The sports grounds are overgrown and the swimming pool and vegetable garden is in ruins due to the lack of maintenance.

The raw sewage spilling down the stairs is a serious health risk in that it passes the kitchen and flows onto the hostels’ construction site. We noted that the water reservoir and fire hydrants on the premises are leaking.

This week, learners took to the streets, burnt tyres and hid the bus keys in protest of the insufferable circumstances.

The socio-economic impact is far-reaching in that many of the contractors were forced to lay off workers, directly impacting the livelihood of the community. The non-payment brought the project to a complete halt, consequently leaving learners to bear the brunt of the Department’s carelessness.

We will submit written questions to the MEC for Department of Education, Wendy Matsemela, requesting her to furnish us with the details of this project. We want to know the initial budget and estimated timeframe and also when the contractors will be paid.

This includes contracts with the Atamelang Bus Company, the current temporary accommodation and also the details concerning the dietary arrangements.

The MEC must further supply a comprehensive strategy on how the challenges learners are experiencing will be addressed. This includes transport and living arrangements.

It is not acceptable that learners’ futures are jeopardised by the Department’s inadequacies. The DA will continue its fight to ensure that each learner in this province has an equal opportunity to quality education.

Issued by Jacqueline Theologo, DA North West Member of Provincial Legislature, 25 August 2019