From overcrowded shacks that leak when it rains, swelter in summer and freeze in winter, to a new school with the latest technology in teaching and learning. This is the new chapter in learning for 2 100 pupils of Mayibuye Primary School in Midrand, Gauteng.
Some gleaming with an extra layer of petroleum jelly, smiling nervously or with eyes wide open in awe at the pomp and ceremony of the day, the excitement from the children was palpable. It has been a long wait for the school to finally open its gates.
On Wednesday, Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi officially launched the school. It had been a long wait for this occasion after delays that began from the time Lesufi was education MEC.
January 17 date flop
Even after the January 17 opening date was set, Mayibuye Primary was still not ready and the pupils had to wait longer for their new school.
Lesufi apologised to the pupils, teachers and the community for the long period it took to complete the school. Matome Chiloane, the MEC for education, and Lebogang Maile, the MEC for human settlement and infrastructure development, were with him.
“Sinihlalise emikhukhwini isikhathi eside [we let you stay in shacks for too long],” he said referring to the old school about a kilometre away.
The new school has been a great source of consternation in the community. It was built in 2017 at a cost of more than R80-million but was found to be unsafe for occupation because of leaking sewer pipes near the school. It was initially alleged that it was built in a waterlogged area.
An assessment conducted by the South African Human Rights Commission in 2020 found that the school was not built on a wetland, but rather adjacent a leaking sewer line which spilled into the school premises.
The Gauteng government spent more millions from late last year to deal with the location of the sewer pipelines and to fix leaks in the pipes so that the community of Mayibuye can have proper school.
Ban bad contractors
Speaking to pupils, parents, teachers, the school governing body, the community, education and union officials, Lesufi said that contractors that do not complete the work they have been contracted to do must be banned from working with the government.
“What happened to Mayibuye must never happen again,” he said, adding that there are other schools in the province which are incomplete because of problems with contractors, while there is a huge demand for basic education in the province.
“Any contractor that cannot finish a job must be blacklisted across the country,” he said adding that government officials must also face the music.
Only phase 1 of the school is complete. An additional 18 classrooms still need to be added to accommodate all the registered pupils as part of the second phase of the construction. The school hall is also not complete and the school has no sporting grounds.
“On April 27, we must open the hall… Children must eat in the hall,” said Lesufi referring to the school-run nutrition scheme implemented in quintile 1 to 3 schools, which are schools situated in poor communities.
The Gauteng department of education said phase 2 will consist of a nutrition centre with a dining hall, a soccer field and combi courts for netball, basketball and tennis
“Out of a shack… to Kanana [referring to Canaan, the Promised Land],” he said.
Until next week, grade 2 and 3 pupils will still be housed in the old shacks at the old school.
Principal Kgabo Rammutla said the school is expecting 18 mobile classes to accommodate the grade 2 and 3 pupils. He said from next week all the pupils will be attending school in the new building.
State-of-the art facilities
The school has an early childhood development centre complete with showers, science laboratories, a computer lab, a library and an administration block.
All six of the school’s grade 7 classroom are full information and communication technology (ICT) classes. The 237 pupils in grade 7 have been allocated laptops which contain all the learning materials, including textbooks, workbooks, pre-recorded lessons and video. The classrooms are also fully decked with a smartboard and connected to the Gauteng broadband network for internet access.
Lesufi said cameras, tracking device and patrollers, armed security and panic buttons will form part of the security to ensure that the infrastructure and technology are protected from criminal elements. He emphasised the role of the community in ensuring that the school is well-maintained, free of crime and is a conducive environment for learning.