School protest in Parkwood

Three primary schools in Parkwood Estate temporarily shut down last Thursday, March 7, due to protests against the schools’ deteriorating structural conditions.

More than 100 concerned residents, along with parents of pupils attending Parkwood, Hyde Park and Montagu’s Gift primary schools, gathered on Acacia Road, holding posters to highlight their concerns.

Community leader and activist, Pastor Paul Phillips, who was the the organiser of the protest, said there would be no negotiations or discussions regarding their demands. “The community of Parkwood is very adamant that we are not budging. The bottom line is the education department are failing our children and it’s time for that to change,” he said.

“Our learners are being put at risk daily. Health and safety issues are not being met.”

A memorandum of demand was formally handed over and signed by Metropole South Education District official, Granville Stander. The three main demands, as stated in the memorandum, was that Parkwood, Montague’s Gift and Hyde Park primary schools be prioritised for reconstruction, be rebuilt within the current financial year and that a collective committee, consisting of government and non-governmental community representatives, be established within three working days, from the date the memorandum was received.

Parents and residents also called for a feedback report at a public community meeting, within seven working days after the establishment of the committee.

As specified in the memorandum, “the existing buildings of the three schools are older than 50 years and still serve as a model of no redress and apartheid-style delivery of service to our community.”

Western Cape Education Department (WCED) spokesperson, Millicent Merton said the department had long-term plans for the area, including the replacement of schools.

“We cannot, however, be forced into placing these schools at the top of our replacement list when there are more immediate concerns to consider.”

Parkwood Primary is one of the schools on the WCED replacement programme, which is provisionally earmarked to be replaced in 2027.

“The WCED prioritises schools for replacement in terms of needs based on the existing structure, however, we cannot do all of them in one go,” Ms Merton told Southern Mail. “Unfortunately, we do not have the funds, or the manpower, to do it at the rate that some people demand.”

This protest follows one that took place, on February 6 when Parkwood residents protested to negotiate the proposal date of upgrades for the school, planned to take place in 2027.

Parkwood Primary, which is more than 50 years old, had to convert the staff room and library into classrooms (“Uproar over school upgrade”, Southern Mail, February 13).

Ms Merton said an assessment to determine immediate safety needs, would be conducted at the school shortly.

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