It is a race against time for the Gauteng departments of education, infrastructure and development to have Mayibuye Primary School in Midrand ready in time for the start of the new academic year on Wednesday.
The school was a hive of activity on Wednesday as Gauteng education MEC Matome Chiloane and head of the department Rufus Mmutlana were joined by Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi to inspect progress of the construction ahead of the opening of schools this week.
The school has been a great source of consternation in the community. It was constructed in 2017 at a cost of R82-million but was found to be unsafe for occupation because of leaking sewer pipes near the school. It was initially thought it was built in a waterlogged area.
However, an assessment conducted by the South African Human Rights Commission in 2020 found that the school was not built on a wetland but adjacent to a leaking sewer line, which spilt into the school premises.
The Gauteng government spent close to R3-million from late last year to solve the problem of the location and leak of sewer pipelines so that the community of Mayibuye, near Thembisa, could a have proper school.
Heavy rains in Gauteng this week also made the job of construction workers difficult. However, Chiloane was confident that the school will be ready to welcome pupils this week, adding it would be a model school for future schools to be built in the province.
Chiloane said he was satisfied with the progress of the early childhood development centre, which includes five classrooms, bathrooms with showers and a play area.
“The centre will accommodate all the learners at the old site,” he said, not discounting the fact that the demand could increase.
“Ideally, we would like to have a ratio of one (teacher) to 30 (pupils) so that the children can receive the attention they need,” he said.
He said only grades 2 and 3 would remain at the old site until mobile classrooms were erected at the school.
“This will happen by the end of January.”
The school will pilot a paperless classroom for a grade 7 class.
Chiloane said the school will be completed at the end of March, which will include the building of additional classrooms. It has a school hall and library and there are plans to add sporting facilities either on the adjacent land or at the old school site.
Pupils of Mayibuye were accommodated in mobile classes on land just less than a kilometre away from the current multimillion-rand school.
For Rachel Lekoadu, who lives across the road from the school, it will be the end of worrying about the safety of her nine-year-old daughter.
“Apart from drug addicts who harass our children for their lunch money on the way to school, we also must worry about their safety at the school.
“When it rains, the roof leaks, and the children must move to the one side of the classroom. When it is hot, it is unbearable to be in the overcrowded classrooms. When it is cold, the children are also exposed to the bitter cold. There are rats. It is not a conducive space for learning at all,” she said.
Another parent Weziwe Ntlokwana-Mphahlele is crossing her fingers that the construction is completed by the start of the new school year.
“Our children are not safe at the old site. They are exposed to all the harsh elements in our society from the weather to criminals. I’m so excited that they will be attending a proper school,” she said.
Ntlokwana-Mphahlele has one child who will be in grade 3, and three of her sisters’ children who are in grades 1 and 3.
“The school is beautiful. As parents, we want to play a role in ensuring that it remains a source of pride in our community. I don’t mind volunteering to ensure that the school is clean and safe,” she said.
The chairperson of the school governing body, Mandla Baloyi, said he was “cautiously excited”.
“I’m just hoping that the school will be complete by next week so that all children are allocated classes accordingly,” said the father of two pupils in grades 3 and 6.
ANC councillor for Ward 110 Angie Mpaho said all classes were complete for the first phase.
“We need to connect electricity and water,” she said. “The progress is very good.”
The Gauteng provincial legislature’s portfolio committee on infrastructure development conducted an oversight visit at the school in November last year.