School gyms: promises stronger than realization
Following the document trail – why the construction of two school gyms in the Municipality of Gazi Baba, one in Chento, and the other in Avtokomanda, (has) marked time
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author: Zaklina Hadzi-Zafirova
Grey walls and overgrown grass. This is the picture to which residents of Skopje suburb Cento have already got used to while passing by the primary school “Krste Misirkov”, where ten years ago a new school gym was supposed to be built. But instead of a new building, which was announced by all previous governments, pupils and children of this suburb have to be satisfied with the school yard and surrounding worn and improvised local courts where they play basketball or football for fun. Almost as old as the building in Cento is the long-rumored school gym in Avtokomanda next to the dormitory “Stiv Naumov”, where despite the authorities’ announcements, still nothing happens, and the building gets ruined year after year.
Is there a strategy of what the citizens’ needs in the municipality are? And what are the needs of pupils in schools? The Center for Investigative Journalism researched why these projects have not revived in their true colors.
In March 2013, just before the local elections, mayor of Gazi Baba, Toni Trajkovski said that “in the following period priority will be to complete building the school gym in Chento, and the project has not been completed due to property rights issues”. In the media statement the mayor announced that property issues were resolved and that in the next period completion of the school gym would start and it should become a sports center for the settlement Chento.
At the same event, the then Director of the Agency for Youth and Sports, Lazar Popovski said that for 2013 20 million denars were provided (about 330 thousand Euros) for the construction of the school gym in Chento. However, it is still unknown what these funds were spent for and whether used for something else because it was two years ago and the building that was to become a school gym has not changed its original appearance. Initial construction activities have begun only recently.
“It should have been completed long ago. It would be nice to have a school gym that everyone would use, but this is it. Now we see that they have been working for weeks, so we will see”, said a middle-aged woman from the suburb Chento.
Even last July Center for Investigative Journalism SCOOP-Macedonia tried to get a response from the authorities why construction of the school gym had stopped, but we did not get any specific reply about the reasons. Just an announcement that “there are ongoing construction activities on the site”, which at the time when we required answers from the municipality Gazi Baba were not happening, not until recently.
In the reply received from the Agency for Youth and Sports, under the Law on Free Access to Public Information it is explained:
“The school gym within the primary school Krste Misirkov in Municipality Gazi Baba was put into operation in 2014 and it is expected to be built during 2015. 35,736,446 denars with VAT have been provided by the Agency for Youth and Sports”.
The panel in front of the building, which until recently seemed neglected, states that the facility is being built by the building company “Bauer BG”, which has so far received several tenders, has worked on reconstruction of the facade of the Government, then the reconstruction of facades of several buildings in the center of Skopje, has participated in the construction of the square “Mother of God” and so on. From what can be seen on the website of the Bureau of Public Procurement, the company collaborates with many state institutions, including the Office of General Affairs of the Government, the City of Skopje and other municipalities.
In the announcement on the concluded agreement on the website of the Bureau for Public Procurement, which the company concluded with the Agency for Youth and Sports on 31.03.2014 (one year after the announcement of the construction of the school gym by Mayor Toni Trajkovski), it is stated that the contract duration for construction of the school gym is 9 months, which means as of December 2014. It is unknown what happened afterwards and whether an annex to the original agreement has been concluded.
The construction and the fate of the school gym in Avtokomanda is also a mystery. Its construction started in the not too distant 2002.
The gym was announced as part of the then-government project (at the time of Ljupco Georgievski) to build 35 gyms across the country. But years passed, and the gym, instead of realizing students’ dreams as a place where they can play sports, has today grown into a place for the homeless. The picture is really sad – litter everywhere in the building, which most of the year is overgrown with grass and looks quite neglected. Although authorities announced that the gym would still revive, for now it remains only on paper.
“Construction of the sports hall next to the dormitory Stiv Naumov started in 2002 and so far the Agency for Youth and Sports has invested 7,631,499.18 denars. Within the project of the Government to reconstruct the existing sports facilities, the Agency for Youth and Sports in cooperation with the municipality of Gazi Baba, after completing the necessary documentation, will launch a procedure for starting the reconstruction of the abovementioned facility”, said the letter sent to us in September 2014 by the Agency for Youth and Sports.
Center for Investigative Journalism SCOOP-Macedonia requested a meeting with the director of Agency of Youth and Sports, Marjan Spaseski, so that we could obtain answers why the activities for completion of these two facilities have stopped, as well as whether there are criteria in planning the construction of the facilities. However, we were told that the only way we could get information from the Agency was through the Law on free access to public information.
The project for 35 gyms across the country is one of the projects listed on the website of the Agency for Youth and Sports. Gyms are built in Mavrovo (Rostuse), Kisela Voda, Gjorce Petrov, places with a much smaller population than Gazi Baba, which, according to documents we have, is at the bottom of the list for getting a modern sports center.
School gym-dream of the oldest school in Macedonia
Pupils of the oldest schools in Macedonia, primary school “Cyril and Methodius” still hope to get a school gym, a problem they have been facing for many years. Instead of a gym, they currently have PE classes in a makeshift classroom which is supposed to be a gym.
Previous mayor of the Municipality Centar, Vladimir Todorovic, before the local elections in 2013 announced that this school would get a gym. But it was only a promise as Todorovic lost the elections. However, things have not changed either with the incumbent mayor, Andrei Zernovski. Although authorities announce that there is ongoing preparation of a project, on the ground things do not change. Children hope for good weather to go out, play basketball or football in the car park in the school yard!
(The story was is supported within the NED project “Raising Awareness about Corruption through Investigative Reporting”)