A consulting engineering firm has provided electricity for 49 rural schools in Libode, Lusikisiki and Mthatha in the Eastern Cape. This forms part of a drive by the Eastern Cape government to upgrade the schools from mud to solid structures and provide water, sanitation and electricity.

GIBB was enlisted by Eskom to provide contract project management and clerk of works services for the project, Iain Harcombe, GIBB project manager: power and energy, says. “The replacement of the 49 schools forms part of the larger accelerated schools infrastructure delivery initiative (ASIDI), a programme to build schools across the country with a focus on replacing inappropriate structures, especially those constructed out of mud.”

The initiative, which commenced in 2011, is one of several projects that GIBB has worked on, in recent years. “We were part of the 2011/2012 Eskom school’s electrification Programme to electrify 41 schools, mostly in the Transkei area, and we are involved in electrifying an additional 51 schools as part of the 2013/2014 Eskom School’s electrification programme.”

Harcombe says, “What sets the 49 schools apart from the other schools is that they were converted from scratch. The other schools were acceptable existing structures that did not need to be completely rebuilt.”

The terrain provided the greatest challenge for contractors when constructing the power lines. “Much of the land is rocky and mountainous. When it rains, the mudslides render the roads unusable and we have had to grade them to continue working.”

Vegetation management was an important consideration for the teams working on the project. Much of the vegetation was untouched whereby permits had to be attained from the department of forestry for the cutting and removal of trees and plants, while taking care not to damage any protected species.

Because electrification requires specialised skills, job creation and skills transfer are created by giving local residents work and training at the various sites GIBB is involved in. “We also train and develop contractors as there is still a major shortage of skilled contractors in the construction field.”

The conversion of another 50 mud schools in the Eastern Cape has commenced. Harcombe says that GIBB has been enlisted to build six schools from scratch, providing structural, electrical and civil engineering services for the schools, which are located in the Libode area near Port St. Johns.

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