State gets a big 'fail!' on schools target

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State gets a big 'fail!' on schools target

Of the 115 schools that were supposed to go up, it managed only 12 - and that's apart from the services backlog

Journalist


The Basic Education Department has failed its own test by not meeting its target of building 115 schools between April last year and March. Only 12 were completed.
Its report card contains very little cause for optimism. The department also “failed dismally” to meet its target of providing water and sanitation to schools operating without these services.
This information is contained in the department’s recently released annual report.
The 115 schools formed part of the department's Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI), aimed at addressing backlogs in the eradication of inappropriate school structures. It was also to address the provision of water, sanitation and electricity to schools.
Most of them are to be built in the Eastern Cape.
To date, 189 state-of-the-art schools, including 141 in the Eastern Cape, have been built to replace “inappropriate” structures.
Up until January the cost of building schools falling under the ASIDI project in the Eastern Cape alone has been more than R5.1bn. This included the provision of sanitation, water and electricity.
The ASIDI programme was launched in 2011.
The department blamed delays in the completion of the projects on, among other things, inclement weather in the Eastern Cape and the contractors for 61 small and isolated schools declining the appointment to build the schools.
The target could also not be met because of a delay in signing the “session agreement” to transfer projects taken from the Independent Development Trust (IDT) to the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) and the Coega Development Corporation (CDC).
According to the report, the construction of 15 schools was taken away from the IDT because of poor performance, and reallocated to the DBSA and CDC.
“All these projects are currently under construction. Poor-performing contractors and implementing agents, who led to delays in completion of projects, have been put on terms or terminated. Target-setting will be revised to be more realistic,” the report stated.
Water was provided to only 43 of the 344 targeted schools while “practical completion certificates” were received for toilets at only 29 of the 257 selected schools.
The delays were again blamed on poor-performing contractors.
In July, the Bisho High Court in the Eastern Cape ruled that the norms and standards for school infrastructure which allowed the state “a lifetime indemnity” against fixing schools and toilets, were now struck out of the law.
The court also ruled that the norms and standards implementation plans and progress reports must be made available to the public by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga within a reasonable time of it being received from provincial education departments.
Motshekga’s department was hauled to court by Equal Education (EE), a movement of pupils, parents, teachers and residents working for quality and equality in education.
EE’s parliamentary officer, Sibabalwe Gcilitshana, described the pace of progress ASIDI has made on school delivery as “deplorable”.
“It comes as no surprise that, yet again, ASIDI has under-performed at eradicating inappropriate structures and providing schools with basic services.”
He said the department had blamed poor-performing contractors and implementing agents for the delays, yet none of them had been blacklisted for their repeated under-performance in building schools.
“The department needs to plan more effectively in order to meet its own deadlines. We have heard the same excuses every year.”
He said it was alarming that the department wants to revise “target setting” relating to the number of schools to be completed through ASIDI.
“It seems the department does not recognise the urgency needed to fix unsafe structures and address school infrastructure backlogs.”
The department’s spokesperson, Elijah Mhlanga, said he had nothing to add over and above what was in the annual report.

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