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asidi-articleThe R13.8-million Nobantu Senior Primary School built by the Asidi programme in a rural area near Mthatha in the Eastern Cape opened in May.12 July 2013 – The next phase of a major ongoing infrastructure-building drive by the Department of Basic Education began with the briefing of suppliers at the end of June, in a project aiming to eliminate schools built of mud, a legacy of ordinary South Africans’ struggle for education during the apartheid era, within two years.

The Accelerated School Infrastructure Development Initiative (Asidi), approved by cabinet with an initial R2.7-billion budget in 2007, has already delivered 22 of the 49 schools identified for complete rebuilding by the end of 2013. Progress on the balance ranges from 24% to up to 98% complete.

asidi-nomabantuPupils explore their new library at Nomabantu Senior Primary School.The department aims to eradicate all mud schools in the country by the end of the 2015 financial year.

The Development Bank of South Africa is the main implementing agent for the Asidi programme, but other partners include the Independent Development Trust, Adopt-a-School in KwaZulu-Natal, Coega in the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape Education Department.

In late June the DBSA began briefing suppliers and contractors for the next batch of 70 schools to be built across the country. The bulk – 50 schools – will be built in the under-resourced Eastern Cape, with the Free State getting nine new schools, Mpumalanga five, Limpopo three and the Northern Cape and North West one each.

Asidi is currently targeting 510 mud, inappropriate and unsafe schools that need to be rapidly replaced by schools that meet the department’s guidelines of basic functionality.

A key part of the programme is to get the work done quickly, to benefit children at school today. At its suppliers’ briefing, the DBSA emphasised that Asidi is an accelerated initiative which needs quality controls to be be in place from the start.

asidi-sidandaAt Sidanda Senior Primary in the Eastern Cape, Winnie Ntungulana (left) is a trainee engineer, while her colleague Ziyanda Hopu is community liaison officer.As the main implementing agent, the bank will work with its service providers to prevent shortages of building material, especially from suppliers of big ticket items.

Security of supply is essential for the construction deadlines to be met. Asidi’s past experience has shown that project delays can be caused by bad weather, underperforming contractors, redoing poor work and industrial action.

On 27 June the various service providers began school visits to assess the sites and meet with school principals. What the DBSA describes as a “period of social facilitation” is now underway, in which school governing bodies and the local community are briefed on the what to expect from the various projects.

Grassroots jobs for young people

While Asidi will benefit poorer communities with access to better education and safer schools, an important priority of the project is to provide jobs to local people, particularly the young and ambitious in the Eastern Cape.

At Sidanda Senior Primary, a school in a deep rural area over 50 kilometres from Mthatha, Winnie Ntungulana has been hired as a trainee, having studied civil engineering at Buffalo City FET. Her colleague Ziyanda Hopu (21) is a community liaison officer, responsible for managing employer-employee and community relations for the smooth running of the site. Construction of the Sidanda school is 73% complete.

asidi-tembeniAt Tembeni Senior Primary, also in the Eastern Cape, Nolutha Mayoyo (left) is site clerk, Vuyo Holiwe (middle) stores clerk and Lindile Wedu (right) community liaison officer.Also in the Eastern Cape is Tembeni Senior Primary School, which is 74% complete. There, 30-year-old Nolutha Mayoyo works as site clerk while Vuyo Holiwe (24) ensures the best us of building material in her role as stores clerk. Like Ziyanda Hopu at the Sidanda site, Lindile Wedu (23) smoothes relations between contractors and locals as community liaison officer.

Dignity and respect

In late May the Department of Basic Education celebrated the opening of one of its latest brand-new schools, Nobantu Senior Primary School, in a rural area near Mthatha in the Eastern Cape. At a cost of R13.8-million, the school gave jobs to local labourers and contractors during its construction. It replaced a mud structure made up of four small blocks for grades R to 6.

“We are making rapid progress towards the completion of other schools earlier delayed for several reasons,” Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga told the teaching staff, department officials, project managers and community members gathered to mark the opening.

“This rate of development driven by a government at work with the people to build a better life for all surely helps in regaining our dignity and respect, after centuries of deprivation.”

The mud school legacy

During the decades of apartheid, the government made minimal investment in education for black people living in rural areas. In response, parents – mainly women – mobilised their communities to build schools using local resources so their children could get a formal education. These schools represented a determined effort by marginalised people to give their children a future.

But in a democratic South Africa, education in mud structures is an ugly legacy of a past indignity that must be remedied. The new administration now has the mammoth task of building and upgrading enough schools to meet the increasing number of school-going young people.

In South Africa, 99% of children between the schooling ages of seven to 15 are in school, with over 12-million pupils in a total of 24 365 public schools in the country.

Ambitious challenge

“The bulk of this challenge is in the Eastern Cape,” said Basic Education spokesperson Panyaza Lesufi. “We have received R8.2-billion that will be used to eradicate mud schools by 2015. In fact, we will be opening one new school in the country every week until November. We have already opened 22 schools.”

Over the full course of the programme, a total of 510 schools with inappropriate structures will be replaced with brand new schools. But Asidi is not only about building new schools; its massive scope also includes upgrading existing ones to comply with basic standards in water supply, sanitation and electricity. Sanitation will be supplied to 939 schools, 932 schools will get electricity for the first time, and 1 145 will be provided with basic water supplies for the first time.

The target for the end of this year is to replace 49 mud schools with brand new structures, connect 190 schools with electricity, provide sanitation to 190 schools and clean water to 173. So far, 22 new schools have been built, 144 electrified, 188 supplied with sanitation and 156 connected to water.

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