Colchester – Teachers at an Eastern Cape primary school are sending children to use toilets at home during school hours because the school’s own facilities have been stripped, GroundUp reported.

Toilets at Colchester Primary School in Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality are unusable. Principal Mervin Fortuin has been at the school for 16 years and vandalism has been a problem for as long as he can remember.

“I have spent much time dedicated to improving the quality of education in this community, but I am now feeling tired and despairing.”

Fortuin says the Department of Education has supplied the school with everything it needs. However, the problem is theft by “irresponsible” locals who strip the school toilets of metal parts, taps, and wiring.

Last year, the toilets were fixed with the help of Victoria Park Primary School of Port Elizabeth.

“It was a philanthropic gesture because we are a poor school. Hardly a month after the repairs, thieves struck again, breaking everything. So we have been operating without the toilets since the last term of 2016. We have to send kids to their homes to relieve themselves.”

Having to keep fixing the toilets is a waste of the school’s “meagre budget”, he says.

Founded in 1881, the school is one of the oldest in the province. It has 88 pupils in Grades R to 7, who share six classrooms. There are four teachers, including Fortuin.

He has tried to get residents to help prevent the vandalism, but without success.

Fortuin says thieves use children to rob the school. “Adults know that children won’t be arrested, so they use them to break into the school premises.”

The school fence has been broken and there is no money to build a brick wall.

“We want to help the school but most people here are not employed. There is also a major problem of drug abuse in the area,” says a parent who asked not to be identified.

Eastern Cape education department spokesperson Mali Mtima said schools have a maintenance budget amounting to 20% of their total budget.

“Principals are always encouraged to use this budget, and if they exceed their budget before the new financial year, the department intervenes to help where it is needed.”

Source: GroundUp