After four decades without toilets, with students forced to duck behind bushes when answering a call of nature, Legotlhwane Primary School pupils will soon enjoy the dignity of using a toilet.
Construction of a nine-cubicle ablution block is expected to be complete before schools re-open in January.
Highlighting his displeasure in parliament this week, the area’s Member of Parliament, Carter Hikuama described the situation as ‘shocking’.
“It is very disturbing and shocking to imagine. In this era how can a school open and function without basic ablution facilities? Imagine how the air and environment of the school feels, when children have to defecate in the open!”
Hikuama was expressing concern at the delay of development at a school opened in 1979 but whose learners still use tented classrooms.
“You cannot claim not to have neglected the school when you have left it in this state for this long!” charged Hikuama, directing his ire at the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development.
In response, the Assistant Minister, Setlhabelo Modukanele indicated the erection of classrooms and teacher houses was delayed by a court battle over the construction tender.
However, he maintained work on both would finally commence early next year.
Modukanele explained Francistown High Court has concluded the matter and ordered for a fresh tender to be flighted, a process which duly took place last month.
“The tender is at an evaluation stage and will be awarded by mid-December, 2020. Construction is anticipated to start in February 2021, when the 30 days allowed for appeals have elapsed,” stated the Assistant Minister.
Hikuama had demanded to know why the school was neglected to an extent of failing to provide modern and sustainable infrastructure in the form of classrooms and staff houses.
When schools prepared to re-open the last term, it emerged that students did not have access to toilets, while staff members were forced to share two loos between them.
Schools across the country were forced to close due to the outbreak of Covid-19 and, in preparation for re-opening, strict hygiene measures were put in place.
Checking on their progress, Hikuama visited the schools in his Ngami constituency, where he stumbled upon the seemingly ‘forgotten’ institute at Legotlhwane settlement, some 75km out of Maun.
Nonetheless, Modukanele paints a different picture.
He insists the school was never ‘neglected’ and that the issue of negligence was in fact ‘water under the bridge’ as developments have begun at the school.
“I am aware of Legothwane Primary School in the North West District that started operating in 1979 under the Ipelegeng Programme through support and donations from Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). In 2006 my Ministry, through North West District Council, took over operations of the school as a satellite school. I wish to inform this House that my Ministry has never neglected the school, and it is committed to continue to provide the necessary infrastructure and maintain the existing ones as and when the need arises.”
Pausing to catch his breath, Modukanele further told parliament, “At inception, the school was provided with a basic infrastructure comprising two classrooms, one teachers’ house, a modified kitchen structure to serve as an administration office, and four pupils’ toilets.”
Additionally, he explained that in the 2013/14 financial year, the existing facilities were augmented by seven tented classrooms and teachers’ accommodation as an interim measure while funds were solicited for conventional facilities.
“Following the declaration and recognition of Legothwane as a Tertiary IV settlement, priority was given to the construction of additional infrastructure consisting of seven classrooms and four staff houses during 2018/19 financial year. It’s unfortunate to state that this project has not yet started. It was awarded to the successful bidder in November 2018 but another contractor appealed this award in January 2019,” outlined Modukanele, a statement that was met with murmurs of displeasure from the house.