‘Shoddy’ repair delay

Philip Africa, general foreman at the school, with a broken outlet toilet water pipe.

Square Hill Primary School staff and student governing body (SGB) members are angry after “shoddy and incomplete” repair work has left the school with only two blocks of working toilets to serve 1 033 pupils, as well as some unsightly cracks.

Principal Lavinia Davis said the school building is in an even worse state now than when the repairs started in July last year.

The work was suppose to have been completed by November last year. However, it continued until May 30 this year.

Jessica Shelver, spokesperson for Education MEC Debbie Schäfer, said the contractor had not returned to complete the work “due to apparent financial difficulties”.

“We are investigating this. Numerous attempts have been made to get the contractor to return, these have proven futile,” said Ms Shelver.

The Department of Transport and Public Works had given the tender for the work at the school to Gapp Architects and contractors Solwa Gasa.

Ms Shelver said the value of the outstanding work was roughly half a million rand.

A total of R4 494 679 had already been spent on the works to date.

The work that still needs to be done includes the replacement of doors which the contractor incorrectly ordered, as well as ironmongery for it; completion of tiling; replacement of incorrect bottle traps; servicing of urinals; completion of walkways; and electrical installation.

The school will be 50 years old next year and Ms Davis said they had been excited about finally getting the much-needed repairs. However, they have been left sorely disappointed.

“We wanted our children to leave this school with good memories and not bad memories of toilets that were not working,” said Ms Davis.

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While the school did have an inspection with Gapp Architects in February, to identify the flaws, no follow up meeting was called and those were not fixed, until a meeting was held last week where promises were made to complete all work within a month.

Parents soon started asking Ms Davis questions about the repair work and especially about the one block of toilets which could not be used due to a broken waterpipe outlet.

She started emailing the architects, asking them to send contruction workers to fix the damages, which included leaking toilets and underground pipes; the non-functioning fire-hydrants; lights in the middle quad not working; continuous tripping of the main electric board; and the incomplete work on doors.

Niel Davids, chairperson of the SGB, and Pouchea (correct) Hector both have children at the school and contacted Southern Mail to share their frustration.

Ms Hector told Southern Mail it was unpleasant to see her daughter go to school when there are not enough working toilets.

“I am a member of the SGB and I have also seen the poor workmanship,” she said.

Byron la Hoe, communications officer for the Department of Transport and Public Works, said a typical maintenance project including general building repairs and electrical work had been planned for the school.

“We have to be clear that this is not an upgrade as suggested by the school, but only repairs and replacement to conform to original condition according to best practice departmental norms and standards,” said Mr La Hoe.

He said that at the time of “practical completion (May 30)”, all toilets were finished and working and there had been no report from the school saying the toilets were not in working order.

However, Mr Davids said they had complained to the architects that the toilets were not working. “The Grade 7 toilets were examined before practical completion and found to be leaking and unsuitable for use. These were never opened for use,” said Mr Davids.

When Southern Mail asked Mr La Hoe about this, he did not address the issue about the Grade 7 toilets, but responded that one urinal at the Grade R toilet block had been broken after one of the pupils had fallen against it.

Mr Davids confirmed that this happened but pointed out that the urinal could not have been properly secured on the wall as these were young pupils involved. “The type of urinal secured by two clips to the wall is bound to fall off the wall,” she said.

Mr La Hoe said as the urinal had been broken “due to misconduct by the user”, the contractor is not responsible to replace at their cost.

Southern Mail asked Mr La Hoe why old cracks in the floors were not fixed, as well as about the cracks in the roof. “Not all floors were to receive new vinyl tiles, only the store room and three classrooms where vinyl needed to be replaced. The dance room floor was sanded and polished,” he said.

And while Mr Davids says damage to the roof was caused by a workman during the repairs, Mr La Hoe said according to site reports from the contractor, the damage was caused by the school. He said roof replacement was not part of the scope. The architect said the damage was identified in June and they could not established who or what caused it as all roof work had already been completed in 2015.

Another issue irking the school is a broken mirror in the ballet room. Ballet teacher Felicity Jacobs said she had to pull away one of the pupils doing bar work next to the mirror when it started to crack. “The crack came after the contractors worked in the room,” she said.

However, Mr La Hoe said: “At the time of going out to tender, the scope was not to fix mirrors but only the major items which could affect learning at the school. The Departmental Works Inspector confirmed that the mirror was not broken by the contractor, but was already cracked at the start of the contract. The specification did not allow for it to be replaced as it did not impede on education. If the damage was as a result of the contractor then he is liable to replace it.

Mr Davids replied: “The mirrors were removed by the contractors and upon replacement they were replaced without the backing rubbers and these were damaged when reinstalled by the contractor. The mirrors remained undamaged for years in the ballet room.”

Mr La Hoe then told Southern Mail last week that all reparis would be completed within a month.

“The school will definitely get help from the department. We received confirmation that the contractor Solwa Gasa will be on site on Wednesday (August 10) to address the list of defects. Contractually the works should be finished within a month from today, however this is dependent on availability of items like the doors, etc.”

Mr Davids confirmed that he had met with Gapp Architects on Wednesday August 10. “They are going to finish up the rest of the work that was not done but could not commit to a date as to when.”

When Southern Mail spoke to Mr Davids on Tuesday morning to ask if any contruction workers had come back to the school to fix the problems, he said, “No, only promises, but no workers have shown up.”