Schools crucial for new Mbombela housing development

James Masango MPL

Provincial Chief Whip of the Official Opposition

The construction of schools must be prioritised for the recently announced construction of a multibillion rand residential development along the R40 between Nelspruit and White River.

The DA welcomes the announcement and hopes that it will improve all aspects of the lives of those who will live there, which is only possible if sufficient schools are built with the development.

According to human settlements MEC Andries Gamede, the massive development will bring the Phumlani Township and Msholozi settlement together and offer housing for middle and low-income families.

There is no doubt that such a development will be beneficial for the Lowveld region, especially Mbombela, for its potential to boost the local economy, job creation and social development.  It could also contribute to address the province’s escalating housing shortage and will certainly be advantageous for the growth of the Mpumalanga University.

However as much as the DA welcomes the initiative, we are concerned about how it will affect education in an area where existing schools are already under pressure to accommodate the influx of learners. While it was announced that the development will house luxurious facilities such as the Mpumalanga International Convention Centre and an upmarket hotel, no mention was made about the amount of schools that would be constructed to service its community.

Nelspruit and White River have a critical shortage of English-medium primary and high schools – with merely one of each in Nelspruit, while both Laerskool Witrivier and Hoërskool Rob Ferreira (the only public schools in White River) are both Afrikaans-medium institutions offering English as a parallel medium.

The enrolment of additional learners into schools that are already operating at full capacity will see a drop in the quality of education and may result in learners being turned away.

The DA will write to MEC Gamede, as well as his education counterpart, Reginah Mhaule, requesting more information on this development, especially with regard to schools. We want to know how many additional schools will be built in and around the settlement, what language medium these schools will offer and how many learners each would accommodate. We will also enquire on the budget government expects to allocate for the construction of these institutions as well as when it will start.