Uncertainty about when some KZN students will return to school following floods

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The Basic Education Department says it is doing everything possible to ensure that students at schools in KwaZulu-Natal that were damaged by the recent floods can resume classes as soon as possible.

It is unclear when students from more than 60 schools in KwaZulu-Natal will return to school. This is due to the schools being inaccessible despite mop-up operations and bridge and road repairs following the province’s floods two weeks ago.

More than 160 schools and 320 000 learners have been affected. 62 schools are not accessible despite mop-up operations and the repairing of bridges. The floods have killed 64 learners in the province.

The department’s spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga says, “We initially had 101 which were not accessible but by yesterday the number reduced to 62. The Department of Transport and other agencies are helping us to clear the roads and to make sure that those schools are accessible. In terms of the actual damage to the schools themselves, there are 124 which need their attention. By the way, that number adds to schools that were damaged during the previous storm about 18 months ago. So, the problem is just growing and growing. We are working to make sure that we provide mobile classrooms to KZN, especially where classrooms have been completely destroyed.”

The head of Education in KwaZulu-Natal, Dr Nkosinathi Ngcobo, says they will provide about 100 mobile classrooms to the affected schools, as part of their short-term interventions.

“We are rolling out a programme of rehabilitation of our schools’ infrastructure. We have just signed off with providers who are going to be supplying mobile classrooms in schools that were partially damaged, in the sense that some structures of the school were working. Some classrooms were working but some have been so damaged that they are not usable,” explains Dr Ngcobo.

Schools still not accessible following the deadly floods:

‘Slow response’

Teacher unions South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) and National Teachers’ Union (Natu) say although they are happy with the progress so far, they are concerned about the slow response in addressing priority areas.

Provincial Sadtu Secretary Nomarashiya Caluza says, ”The progress is slow but we know that it is because of what we are confronted [with] and what we are dealing with. So we will continue to monitor but we still have those schools that are not accessible.”

“The plans in other schools seem to go very slow but we are hopeful that working together [with] the department will be able to assist … our fear [is that some of] those schools are told to do the task on their own.”

Meanwhile, Natu’s Phindile Mnabe has raised concerns about learners who are still sitting at home. “The department is trying but it’s not as fast as we would expect it to be because at some stage where schools are not accessible, learners are still at home and educators are either reporting at home or at other schools or at circuit offices.”

“So, it’s not going as fast as we wish, noting that we are at term two and exams are soon to resume. So we are not happy with the speed at which it is going.”

The Department of Education says as an interim measure, affected school children are encouraged to attend their nearest accessible schools.

The video below is reporting on the number of schools that have been damaged by the floods: