‘Plankie’ school needs a fix

The condition of Parkwood Primary Schools buildings has deteriorated over the years.

Parkwood residents and community workers have called for answers from the Western Cape Education Department about the state of Parkwood Primary School.

According to residents, pupil numbers have increased to nearly 700 and the building is in a poor condition.

Community worker Paul Phillips said the 58-year-old school cannot continue to operate the way it is.

“As concerned leaders and community members we are planning action should the education department not give clarity on the rebuilding of the falling apart 50-year-old buildings. They had to convert the staff room and library into classrooms because there are not enough classrooms and teachers because there are too many children in one class and this puts both the learners and teachers at a disadvantage,” said Mr Phillips.

He said the school has a good reputation but needs to be upgraded for the benefit of the children and community.

“Parkwood Primary School is a good story school with a vision-driven principal and committed staff. The school has a track record of being community driven and there have been projects which I have been part of at the school.”

He said a canteen and a resource centre are all proactive interventions that were implemented by the school’s management.

“The school is top of the list as the community school of choice and that is why there is rapid growth and demand for its services and the demand exceeds the capacity. Unfortunately, the department is slow in recognising and appreciating excellence because the buildings are falling apart as the school is decades old and does not meet safety and health requirements. The capacity exceeds demand,” said Mr Phillips.

“The staff and learners have become victims of a system that does not care or is ignoring reality,” he added.

“Likewise the Hyde Park and Montague Gift primary schools because they are all apartheid styled buildings which are symbols of marginalisation and oppression. As a community we say this is unreasonable and unacceptable. The department of education must tell us where on the priority list schools in Parkwood are listed currently and what they will do to alleviate and better conditions,” said Mr Phillips.

Bronagh Hammond, Western Cape Education Department (WCED) spokesperson, said the number of pupils registered at the end of 2018 was 645 but said it is possible the number could have increased since, given late enrollments.

“The WCED is very aware of the challenges some schools are experiencing with growth in learner numbers and large class sizes. This is not unusual for the start of
any school year, as schools finalise class lists and late applications.
We also experience another spike in learners at the end of January,
after “pay-day”, when learners travel from other provinces or areas and take up places in schools,” she

The WCED keeps an allocation of teacher posts separate to those that were distributed previously, in order to accommodate unexpected growth.

Ms Hammond said schools that have large class sizes and substantial increases in pupil enrollment can then apply to their district for additional teachers.

“The department then reviews the applications and distributes additional posts or mobiles to schools where there are needs and on availability.

Responding to claims that the school is “falling apart” Ms Hammond said scheduled maintenance had been carried out during 2015 and 2016.

“If there is anything that places the learners and educators at risk, then the school must apply for emergency maintenance as per our protocol,” she said.

Asked if there any plans to upgrade or rebuild the school, Ms Hammond said: “There are nearly 200 schools in the province that we would like to replace. The majority of these schools are known as “plankie schools” that were built under the apartheid era and their structures are not brick and mortar. Parkwood Primary is one of the schools on the WCED replacement programme. The school is provisionally earmarked for replacement in 2027.”

She added that should more classrooms be required, a request must be submitted via the district.

No request for mobile classrooms were submitted during 2018.

School principal Calvin De Kock said a meeting had been arranged with the community about the concerns.

“As the community they are entitled to raise concerns and we cannot ignore their concerns. At the meeting we will discuss what can be addressed and when this can be done. In my opinion the school is becoming a school of choice and there has been an increase in enrolment but we will address this at the meeting with parents and the community,” said Mr De Kock.

Albert Malgas, School Governing Body (SGB) chairperson and a parent of a pupil at the school, said the WCED has to step up.

“We as parents do all we can to help the school but there is only so much we can do. The school
is falling apart and some classes are overcrowded but the department is not doing anything to fix the problem. The department is
not playing their role and not coming on board” said Mr Malgas.

“The department has forgotten about Parkwood Primary School and the other schools in the area. If we were a school in a more affluent area I’m
sure the department would have been a lot more helpful,” he

Responding to the department’s provisional plans to replace the school in 2027, Mr Malgas said: “It is too long. We would be very grateful for a new school but we cannot wait that long, we should have been on their budget a long time ago and it will probably be delayed so there’s no guarantee it will
even happen in 2027,” said Mr Malgas.