The SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) in the province has accused the Western Cape Education Department of neglecting to carry out proper maintenance work at schools, and allowing the facilities to fall into “ultimate decay”.
This comes after two schools, Uitzig Secondary and Beauvallon Secondary, were recently found by structural engineers to be unsafe for occupation.Earlier this year, parents and pupils from a third school, Avondale Primary in Atlantis, also complained to the department that their school was structurally unsafe.
The buildings were assessed by engineers who indicated that while some classrooms were safe, certain areas of the school needed to be cordoned off until repairs could be completed.
Sadtu provincial secretary Jonavon Rustin said the union was “deeply concerned” the department was allowing school facilities to deteriorate to such an extent that it was declared unsafe for occupation, and pupils and teachers had to be moved.
“It would appear that this is a strategy by the department to close schools. When a school becomes dilapidated, parents will take their children elsewhere. In the past we have seen that the department has cited dwindling pupil numbers as a reason for wanting to close schools.”
Beauvallon had previously been identified for closure by the department, but following legal action, the school remained open.
Rustin said the department should have intervened at the first sign of deterioration at the schools.
He said there should also be more discussion around the department’s replacement school programme.
Through this programme, the buildings of schools that were built with prefabricated materials were replaced with brick and mortar structures.
He questioned why the affected schools had not been prioritised for this programme.
Jessica Shelver, spokeswoman for Education MEC Debbie Schafer, said the department had spent millions of rand on repairs at the two schools over the past few years.
With reference to Beauvallon, she said the school had continuously been vandalised over the years, despite repairs and security measures.
She said that since 2013, the department had spent about R2.7 million on maintenance and repairs at the school, while the Safe Schools directorate spent more than R165 000 on access control and security measures over the past five years.
With regard to Uitzig, she said the most recent major repairs, to the roof, was done by the Department of Transport and Public Works in September 2014.
She said Safe Schools had also worked with the school and other partners to address various security and social issues affecting the school.
Measures included raising the height of a wall used by gangsters to enter the school grounds, installing razor wire and deploying additional security guards.
Shelver said there was no strategy by the department to allow school buildings to deteriorate and then close the schools. In both cases, repairs have been done over the years and there is a legal process that has to be followed when closure is considered.â?
The department was hoping to move the pupils from Uitzig to another school last week, but their plans were met with resistance. It also plans to move pupils and teachers from Beauvallon, which is situated in Valhalla Park, elsewhere, but these plans were still being finalised.
Shelver said the Department of Transport and Public Works had commissioned a more detailed report from a quantity surveyor on the condition of Uitzig, and the department was awaiting this report.
She said the department was also waiting on an assessment on Beauvallon before making any decisions on the way forward for the school.[Source: Cape Argus]