The Northern Cape Department of Education has put the onus on schools around the province to raise funds or seek sponsorship to help ease their financial difficulties. This comes after parents closed a number of schools across the province, citing the lack of electricity because of outstanding Eskom debt, water and books at these schools.

Pupils from Noupoort Combined School in the Northern Cape are the latest to fall victim to the school’s inability to pay its debt. Learning and teaching has been halted by parents who refuse to let their children attend a school with no water, electricity and a shortage of books. A parent of a grade nine pupil at the school, Nobie Baarties, says it is futile for her child to go to a school with limited resources.

“We want the department in the first place to change the status of the school to a quintal 2 school and then I think things will go better. In the first place, the school has no electricity and no water at all, and then there is another problem, there are five teachers who are volunteers, who are not educated for teaching.”

The Provincial Department of Education has admitted that at this point it is unable to rescue schools from their debt. Spokesperson for the Department, Geoffery van der Merwe, says the situation is aggravated by the increased pupil intake which cannot be sustained by their current budget.

“The Northern Cape Department of Education is in an unfortunate financial situation for the 2017/2018 financial year whereby no funding is available to assist schools with their current outstanding municipal and Eskom service accounts. In accordance with the national norms and standards for school funding policy as amended, funding is earmarked and allocated during the months of May and November each year to all schools for this specific purpose.”

School Governing Body Secretary at Noupoort Middle School, Sobantu July, fears that delayed intervention from the department would affect the academic year.

“The speedy intervention from the side of the department will remedy the situation. If this thing is delayed, let say for a week or two, it means therefore it is the same educators who will have to make sure that they cover that time because the department wouldn’t want any excuse why we didn’t cover the curriculum. We will be glad if this thing can be solved but the problem is how do we go to the school and we have no electricity, we have a shortage of textbooks? The function of the school cannot be effective.”

While parents are adamant that their children would stay home until a resolution is reached, the department says it would try to negotiate with Eskom and municipalities.

Meanwhile, attempts to get comment from the National Education Department were unsuccessful.