Uproar over school upgrade

Residents and parents protest in front of Parkwood Primary.

Parkwood residents took to the streets on Wednesday February 6 to show their frustration at the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) for the condition of Parkwood Primary School.

Community leaders, the Parkwood Primary School Governing Body (SGB) and parents are concerned that the old building is unsafe for the nearly 700
pupils (“Plankie school needs a fix”, Southern Mail, January 23).

Community worker Paul Phillips said the building, which is 58-years old, is dilapidated and a hazard.

“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.

Responding to claims that the school is falling apart, the education department’s Bronagh Hammond said scheduled maintenance had been carried out at the school during 2015 and 2016.

Ms Hammond also said Parkwood Primary is one of the schools on the WCED replacement programme and that the school is provisionally earmarked for replacement in 2027.

On Wednesday February 6, about 60 people held up placards to protest in front of the school because of the department’s comment that the school would not be upgraded any time soon.

The group compiled a memorandum of demands listing the issues they have.

In the memorandum it states pupils are being placed at risk as the current state of the school building does not comply with safety and health regulations and that the state of the school does not make it conducive to learning.

It also states that the response from the department about the provisionally earmarked date is an insult to the residents of the community.

Mr Phillips said: “The issues raised are seen as serious and will be dealt as such as complaints will be logged with the Human Rights Commission and relevant organs of the state too, as a matter of urgency to address the gross abuse of children and their rights”.

Their demands include that the upgrade of the Parkwood Primary School be prioritised and that the provisional proposed upgrade date of 2027 be renegotiated through the process of public participation; and that the department of education presents an emergency interim plan to address the safety concerns as a matter of urgency.

The group said they want answers from the department within seven working days from the day of the protest.

SGB chairperson Albert Malgas, a parent of a pupil at the school, said the department’s provisional plans to replace the school in 2027 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,” he said.

Mr Phillips said pupils and the community deserve better and that the education department must come up with a realistic plan to replace the school.

“All three schools in the Parkwood area, including Parkwood Primary, Hyde Park and Mont-
ague Gift Primary School are in such a state that they can’t deliver on the mandate of the constitution which is education in a safe, conducive environment,” said Mr Phillips.

A WCED official received and signed the memorandum.

In response to the protest, Ms Hammond said the WCED has a 10-year infrastructure plan, which is determined according to, among others, the available and projected budget, the accommodation needs of specific communities and the priorities in terms of structural or other concerns.

“There are many factors involved in making these decisions. This list is reviewed each year, taking
the above into consideration
such as when a community may expand significantly in a rapid amount of time and therefore one area could be prioritised over another.

“The district is aware of the concerns and will engage with the school. We cannot, however, prioritise schools over others as a result of protests. We have to use information at our disposal to determine where the greatest needs are in terms of accommodation demands and safety,” said Ms Hammond.