As operations to replace asbestos roofing materials on buildings gains momentum, schools with asbestos roofing have complained about lack of funds to purchase alternative roofing.
The New Times has learned that most of the schools have yet to appropriately respond to the drive, a year after its launch.
The drive to remove asbestos sheets from all public and private buildings was initiated after realising that people living or working in structures with asbestos roofs were exposed to health risks like lung cancer, and other respiratory diseases like asbestosis.
630,000 square kilometres of asbestos have so far been replaced, out of a total of 1,000,000 countrywide. The activity is being carried out by 130 private firms, trained and recommended by the Rwanda Housing Authority.
Andrew Kalisa, the proprietor of APRED Ndera in Gasabo, Kigali, says: “We value the fact that asbestos should be replaced for the good health of our students, but we can’t do it now because we have no money to buy alternative roofing materials”.
Martin Masabo, the headmaster of Lycee de Kigali, similarly noted that his school, as a public institution, had delayed to remove the materials because of lack of finances.
“We need government support to replace the sheets; and until then, parents’ contribution will not be enough in implementing the campaign,” he lamented.
Esther Mutamba, the Director General of the Rwanda Housing Authority, however contested the issue of lack of enough funds, saying the government was willing to finance public schools in the cause.
“The government is always ready to finance the removal and transportation of the asbestos sheets to burial sites, and provide alternative roofing if the schools include the issue in their budgets; in fact schools that have done so, have been financed”.
She further noted that most of the private schools with asbestos roofing, like church founded schools, are capable of replacing them, given their strong financial backing.
The government will however step in to support such schools that will have failed to effectively respond.