18 June: After a week back in Cape Town on other business, Jules and Laura meet up in PE and head to Grahamstown for the next stage:
That would be: collate everything we have learned so far, conceptualise our best way forward, research necessary interventions, get quotes, get ideas and write write write.
Grahamstown is a very fortunate location – it has a never ending supply of electricity, it has good cellphone reception and Jules has an extra room in her house there. Our time there also happens to coincide with the Grahamstown Art Festival – a 10 day extravaganza of theatre, jazz and art and one of the biggest such events in the world. It therefore proves easy to entertain ourselves when not on the job….
But we are on the job most of the time: We think carefully about our strategy and objectives. We call heaps of people. We get proposals, budgets, ideas, etc, etc….. and we write, write, write.
There is one great challenge to this time – the Department of Education is unfortunately still on strike. In fact, no-one has answered the phone in the District Director’s office for more than three weeks. This has now also coincided with school holidays so many of those we wish to speak with are in fact on holiday too. We are persevering but the timing is not great.
Nevertheless, we have spoken to heaps of teacher training programmes, to school community capacity builders, to actual building builders….
The fabulous Dave Gaynor, programme manager of the Bulungula Incubator’s Bee Project is also an environmental builder. He promises to look into planning and costing an environmentally friendly school.
A damning article in the Sunday times around crisis schools in the Eastern Cape helps our cause. For the first time in more than three weeks someone answers the phone. We communicate with Sonny, in the infrastructure department. He tells us we are definitely not on any priority list for building for the next two years. This is very disappointing but we had thought it may be so. Unfortunately the government’s goal of eradicating all mud schools by 2008 has not been realizable. We will need to think of other ways to build NO-OFISI. Sonny is very helpful and has put us in touch with a quantity surveyor that works with the Department and with a contact at ESKOM (SA’s one and only electricity supply company).
We’ve had an exciting conversation with Henry from ESKOM today. He has committed the electricity to the school once we have a permanent structure. We can move quite quickly on this and should plan for a site visit so that we can be put down on a list for the next year. This is great and the value of the standard package provided to schools is in the region of R150,000.
I have also managed to chat with the QS and DOE around what a building might cost if they provided one – to give us a general idea. Turns out this is likely to come to more than R2 million.
Onwards we move.
Back in Grahamstown we are putting the final touches on the concept document. The plan is for Laura to go to Bulungula for a final week. She’ll workshop through all ideas with Dave and Rejane and we will plan our way forward once we have consensus on our project plan.
Back at Bulungula Lodge: by chance, Sibongile Muthwa, the Director General of our provincial government visits the lodge on holiday with her family. She inspects and is shocked by the school and she will hopefully be a valuable ally in government.