South Africa’s biggest winter storm in years has reportedly damaged 135 schools in the Western Cape province – according to the province’s Department of Education.
Schools were shut throughout the area on Wednesday in anticipation of the weather event, which has already claimed the lives of nine people.
In a statement on Friday, Education MEC Debbie Schafer said that she was pleased that teaching in most schools had resumed.
However, several schools have had to suspend teaching for a few more days due to maintenance work.
“By Thursday‚ 135 schools had reported storm damage to our Safe Schools Call Centre with 41 schools reporting damage to the school roofs,” Schafer said.
“There are exceptions at some schools that have been severely damaged by the storm. Our district officials are working with schools to implement contingency plans.”
The damage is mainly from water and fallen trees, which have affected classrooms and broken fences.
“We are reporting all cases immediately to the Provincial Department of Transport and Public Works. The Head of the Provincial Department of Transport and Public Works has activated emergency procurement measures which will make provision for schools to ensure‚ as quickly as possible‚ that facilities are made safe where damage has occurred and allow for minor repairs to prevent further damage to buildings‚” she added.
According to her statement, the department has sent inspectors to the worst-hit schools and will determine a strategy in how to move forward. There is no announced figure on the total cost or extent of the damage.
“Schools need to be made operational as soon as possible‚ which means that we will have to prioritise damages that affect the core functioning of the school‚ such as damage to classrooms‚ ablutions and administration blocks,” Schafer added.
In terms of timing, the storm couldn’t have hit at a worse period. Students are writing their mid-year exams, and after heavy criticism has fallen upon the entire nation’s education system, the Department of Education will be hoping that the results can be an improvement from past years.