High school in tatters

ROSHAN ABRAHAMS

There might be some relief for the pupils and staff of Pelican Park High School who have had to deal with overcrowded, vandalised and unmaintained facilities for the past few years.

From shivering in overcrowded classrooms as cold air comes through broken windows, roofs, ceilings and doors, to fainting in the heat as assemblies are conducted out in the open, the school community has lamented the poor state of their school.

In response to Southern Mail’s queries about the maintenance needs, the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) communications officer, Millicent Merton said the school is being scheduled for an upgrade.

That could not come sooner for parents such as Najiema Benjamin, who has two daughters at Pelican Park High School. She said the toilets are “disgusting” and the girls refuse to use them.

“(They) actually wait all day to get home to relieve themselves. It is inhumane,” said Ms Benjamin.

During winter the pupils take hot water bottles to school because their exam room has broken windows and a broken door, said Ms Benjamin. Principal Carder Tregonning told Southern Mail that he has been asking the Western Cape Department of Education (WCED) to fix the infrastructure of the school since 2013.

Mr Tregonning said the classrooms are too small and made to fit for 30 children in a 49 square metre room. “We need a 58 square metre room to accommodate 42 children. “We asked the WCED to put in 42 desks but they said they were too expensive. Then they sent us tables and chairs, which take up more space, and are shared by two to three children.

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He said he put together a presentation with all the faults at the school, from bird’s nests on the roofs, broken windows, rusted frames, broken fences, broken doors and many other defects, and sent it to the WCED.

“The school is 24 years old and has not been maintained as it should have been,” said Mr Tregonning.

In the presentation, he stated some of their challenges:

“The school experienced extreme vandalism between 2008 and 2011. The Student Governing Body (SBG) of the school decided to employ a security guard to curb the break-ins and vandalism. In 2012, the school installed an alarm system with the help of Safer Schools to assist our security officer. We also adopted two dogs to assist him in his quest to protect the property of our school – four dogs at present. In 2012, we had two break-ins compared to many previously. In 2013, there were no break-ins.”

When Southern Mail visited the school, Ms Benjamin and teacher Igsaan Dramat showed us around.

Mr Dramat said the school does not have a hall to accommodate 850 pupils and assemblies take place outside in a quad with a little podium. He said Three girls fainted in the quad with no shade during assembly last week, due to the heat.

Their exam room is also used by students from adults educational institutions, to write exams.

Two Grade 11 pupils’ desks were pushed right up against the front wall making them very “uncomfortable” as they have to look at their teacher, Yvonee September, sidewards.

Ms September said she has 55 children in her classroom and it is difficult for her to teach. “I have to wait for a free period to write on the black board. And I cannot move through the classroom to check their work when they write from the textbooks. We have a overhead projector now to give some lessons.”

Mr Dramat said the building is a solid building and they are grateful for it, however, when pipes and gutters break, they are not replaced.

Some teachers take their own initiative to fix their classrooms.

One teacher, Faldie Hendricks said he had a classroom which had no door. “I had to fit this door in myself,” he said.

However, the ceiling is cracked and water seeps through during winter and only three lights are working, he said.

Mr Dramat pointed out to the cloakroom which has been vandalised several times.

“We have broken doors and windows every holiday when the school closes. This room cannot be used anymore.”

He said the sports field is in ruins. “There is no maintenance of the field and children cannot use it.”

Ms Merton said: “Pelican Park High School is scheduled for an upgrade in 2016/17. Once finished the school will have 30 classrooms, two labs, one computer room, two multipurpose classrooms and a multi-media centre.”

When Southern Mail relayed the message to Mr Tregonning, he said he is happy with the WCED’s promises to upgrade the school, but “they promised us a much needed school hall. We need the hall because we must have assemblies outside and parent/teacher meetings outside.”