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Dharumavantha School windows crack, contractor responds

Mohamed Rehan
05 December 2023, MVT 16:46
Minister of Education Dr. Ismail Shafeeu inspects Dharumavantha School-- Photo: Mihaaru
Mohamed Rehan
05 December 2023, MVT 16:46

The majority of windows in the new Dharumavantha School building have been broken or cracked, requiring immediate repairs due to the potential danger posed to students and teachers.

The school was officially opened in August, and the need for immediate repairs came to light within three months of its inauguration.

Minister of Education Dr. Ismail Shafeeu visited the school for inspection and spoke with Mihaaru News, emphasizing that the glass used for the windows was only five millimeters thick.

He further noted that majority of the glass panes measured six by two feet, with approximately 30 panes reported with cracks.

"I visited the school some time ago, and I observed that about 30 of these windows had been cracked. It is concerning, and a student might sustain an injury if one of these panes fall," the minister said.

The Ministry of Education, at that time, awarded the contract to SJ Construction for the development of Dharumavantha School on the vacant plot in front of Villa College QI Campus. The government formally contracted SJ Construction for the project on February 4, 2020.

SJ Construction was initially contracted for the project at a cost of MVR 74.9 million, with a completion period of one year. However, the contract was later revised, extending the project duration and an additional MVR 20 million was paid to the contractor.

The final value of the school's development reached MVR 94 million.

The agreement with SJ Construction highlighted the contractor was liable for any repairs that are required on the building, if its sustains any damage within one year from the date of project completion.

The minister assured that all problematic windows would be replaced under phases, and added the repairs would be handled by the contractor.

Minister Shafeeu also raised concerns for the sliding aluminum doors fitted in the walkway installed between the two building blocks, connecting the two structures. He said that students could slip and fall from the doors, and noted that safety measures were not factored by the contractor.

Cracks on the windows at Dharumavantha School-- Photo: Mihaaru

Although it was initially believed that the bridge connecting the two structures would serve as a walkway, it has been designated for use as an art gallery for exhibitions and other similar projects. However, the minister noted that establishing a gallery in that space would limit the area available for six classrooms.

The minister also added that the school's management has been notified to limit the number of students using the structure simultaneously.

Before the school was inaugurated, parents began expressing concerns about the lack of a hall. The ministry had initially planned to vacate the jail located next to the school and develop the hall on that plot.

Minister Shafeeu said that Homeland Security Minister Ali Ihusan had communicated the complete evacuation of the prisons and the handover of the plot to the Ministry of Education by January 2024.

He further stated that the plot would be handed over to Dharumavantha School's management the following day after the handover.

Meanwhile, SJ Construction has responded to the matter, asserting that they had utilized materials approved by the Ministry of Education.

The contractor, through X, reported that it had requested the then Ministry of Education, during former President Solih's administration, to choose glass with a thickness of 10mm. The contractor stated that despite its requests, the ministry at that time insisted that the contractor proceed according to the building schematics.

In response to the minister's concerns about using thin glass for longer window panes, SJ stated that designs needed to be modified to accommodate a sturdier window based on its height. The contractor had raised various issues related to the building's designs, which were developed by Riyan Private Limited.

"When we were working on the building's foundation, we noticed structural integrity was failing, and when we notified and demanded no further work would proceed without re-designs to the foundation, the ministry had complied," SJ said in defense.

"Railings were not present for some of the stairs, and we got permission to construct them only a week ahead of its inauguration."

SJ Construction further said that the contractor is not responsible for any modifications or alterations to the schematics or design of the structure, and as such, utilized all the material and equipment as per the technical specifications provided by the ministry.

Minister Shafeeu, while stressing that the school buildings developed under the supervision of the ministry met specific standards, noted that the structure of Dharumavantha School fell short of said standards.

He further emphasized the need for a revision of the standard if the investigation reveals negligence on the part of the ministry.

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