Photo credit: www.googlemaps.co.za
The Operational Director of the Suid Afrikaanse Onderwys Unie (SAOU), Johan Kruger, released a statement earlier this morning regarding the infrastructure problems at Hoërskool Roodepoort.
He also supplied the Record with photos he took of the damage when visiting the school. The statement reads as follows:
“In a letter, the SAOU pleaded the case on behalf of the School’s Governing Body (SGB) with the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) regarding the building’s structural integrity which is in contravention of the National Building and Standards Act 103 of 1997. The SGB subsequently approached CFJ Consulting Engineers to conduct another assessment of the building in order to compare the current situation with previous results. The SGB informed the SAOU (5 February 2019) that the situation has now become even more critical.
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“The latest engineer’s report indicates that the floor slabs have deflected further and appear to continue to do so. New cracks on the surface of the floor slabs and the walls have formed, further undermining the integrity of the building. The engineer’s report goes on to indicate that the rest of the structure should not be occupied or used – with immediate effect.
“In essence the school now has eighteen classrooms deemed structurally unsafe. The SAOU immediately informed the MEC per letter (5 February 2019) of the new developments. The GDE then responded (6 February) stating that the school had received maintenance grants from the Department of Education, but that the school had not used the grants for maintenance purposes. The school, however, has evidence, in the form of its financial statements, that clearly indicates that the money was indeed utilised for maintenance. What is more, the amounts reflected in the financial statements far exceed the value of the grants received from the GDE.
“With the tragedy of Hoërskool Driehoek fresh in the national consciousness, it is regrettable that the GDE has the audacity to flagrantly try to shift its legal accountability onto the school. As the owner of the building of a public school it must stand accountable for the structure.
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The South African Schools Act 84 of 1996 clearly emphasises the responsibility of the State. In section 60(1), the Act states that the State is liable for any damage or loss caused as a result of any act or omission in connection with any educational activity conducted by a public school and for which such public school would have been liable but for the provisions of this section.
“It is also important to take notice of ‘Usufructus’. The school is currently operating as a ‘Usufruct’. That means that the school (as a legal entity) is making use of buildings it does not own. In other words, the school is given the right to use the profits and advantages of something belonging to another – in this case, the GDE – as long as the property is not damaged or altered in any way, for a certain period of time.
“The Rights and Obligations of the Usufructuary are clearly set down:
The usufructuary (the school) is required by law to act as a diligent ‘owner’ that may not misuse the property. The usufruct (the structure) must be used properly for the purposes intended. The school is responsible for paying the assessment rates and general daily maintenance costs, but is not obliged to do large-scale repairs resulting from normal wear and tear (structural damage). Even if the structure were to perish due to daily use, the school would not be obliged to replace it.”
The structural damage at the school. Photos: Supplied.
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