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05 December 2011

150 SA schools at risk from sink holes

Khutsong Primary School in Khutsong South, near Carletonville, is being built on dolomitic land. Photo: Ihsaan Haffejee

The Gauteng government has budgeted R125 million to protect thousands of pupils whose lives are at risk while they are at school.

This is because over 150 schools built on dolomitic land are at risk of collapse due to sink holes.

Education MEC Barbara Creecy made this revelation in the legislature, following questions from DA education spokesman Khume Ramulifho, who asked for a detailed account of the number of Gauteng schools built on dolomitic land.

Creecy responded that a departmental study had identified 153 schools in various levels of high-risk dolomitic areas. A total of 500 schools in the province were built on dolomite.

Fatalities as a result of sink holes were reported to be 38 people, but it was unclear if this figure related to schools or general deaths because of sink holes.

The affected schools are in Carletonville, Vosloorus, Centurion, Atteridgeville, Pretoria, Katlehong, Alberton, Westonaria, Tokoza, Henley-on-Klip, Tembisa, Krugersdorp, Randfontein, Broederstroom, Kliprivier and Lenasia.

These revelations coincided with a damning report from Auditor-General Terence Nombembe on the infrastructural problems affecting the education department.

In his report, the A-G said there was poor communication between local authorities and the department regarding the fast-tracking of plans for schools.

“Thirty-one percent of the fast-track schools were located on dolomitic sites, as local authorities reserved the best sites for residential purposes.

“Fast-track schools are those identified as a high priority in the province and had to be completed in one year.

“An emergency tender process was followed in this regard. For example, at the Freedom Park Secondary School the project was halted due to poor site conditions. An environmental impact assessment was commissioned to ascertain the possibility of continuing with the project after approximately R4m had already being spent on the project,” he said.

Creecy said Khutsong Primary was the only school being built on dolomitic land.

The Council for Geoscience had said the development “of dolomitic land is possible as long as the prescribed minimum design criteria are considered and implemented to mitigate any risks that may rise out of poor land utilisation”.

Creecy said plans were in place to build schools with foundations suitable for dolomitic conditions.

“Other dolomitic risk-management measures, such as the replacement of ordinary water and sewer pipes with leak-free pipes, provisions for creating concrete aprons around building and stormwater controls, are being implemented,” she said.

A new study will be undertaken next year.

- The Star