The staff and principal of Heathfield High School are elated that a new perimeter fence is currently being erected, after a protracted campaign.
Principal Wesley Neumann, said after 12 years of active campaigning and six years of being on the Western Cape Education Department’s (WCED) priority list, the school’s perimeter fence is finally being replaced.
“The Heathfield High School Governing Body is pleased to inform the school community that the Department (of Education) has finally acceded to our demand and has committed to replace the perimeter fence in its entirety,” Mr Neumann said. “We wish to express our heartfelt gratitude to all who have generously contributed towards this campaign.
“We wish to thank the thousands of people who signed our petition and the community members who joined our picket lines in our mission to acquire a new school fence.
“The school governing body wishes to acknowledge the pivotal role our ward councillor, Kevin Southgate, played in this process. Mr Southgate initiated this campaign some 12 years ago and has been relentless in the demand for a new fence.
“Thank you for making a difference in the life of a child and a safer school for our children.”
Southern Mail asked Mr Southgate when and why he started getting involved in campaigning for the fence at his old school.
“I started getting involved in the initiative some 12 years ago. As the (then) Steenberg Community Police Forum (CPF) chairman I was always concerned when school management attended CPF meetings and spoke about the violence and burglaries at school and how, because the fence was so porous, it gave perpetrators easy access to the facility,” Mr Southgate explained.
“More recently there were concerns that gangsters were coming onto the school property when there were fights to help out their friends.
“This posed a serious threat to the safety of both learners and educators and only served to increase my resolve to pursue the request for a new fence,” he said.
Mr Southgate used different platforms to campaign for the fence. “I used social media platforms to highlight the plight of the school. I regularly wrote letters to the office of the premier and the Department of Education and even when they said there was no budget I kept on until eventually our school made it onto the budget. I petitioned premier Alan Winde and invited him to visit the school.
“Although he had to cancel his visit because of other government business, he has remained supportive and I want to thank him for making all this happen. I encouraged the community to participate and sign the petition,” he said.
Mr Southgate said he was happy that the school perimeter would be more secure and that the risks to the pupils and teachers “hopefully will be reduced”.
“It will also improve the general aesthetics of the school,” he said.
Mr Southgate said it was important for former pupils to get involved with their alma mater.
“Firstly acknowledge the value that your school has added to your lives and then commit to giving back to the school so that others may benefit from the contributions we are able to make. We must share our expertise and experience and use our networks to assist.”
Millicent Merton, spokesperson for the WCED, said the application for the fence was received in 2019.
“The R 2.1 million project started on Monday June 8 and completion is scheduled for Friday August 10. Edge to Edge is the contractor and Amabamba Fencing the sub-contractor. The fence will be a 2 100mm (2.1 metre) high galvanised mild steel fence with flat wrap barbed wire.”