Get off the fence, learners plea

2020-03-10 06:01
Heathfield High School learners march for a new school fence and improved school safety.PHOTO: Kevin SOuthgate

Heathfield High School learners march for a new school fence and improved school safety.PHOTO: Kevin SOuthgate

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On Saturday 29 February, the learners at Heathfield High School (HHS) called on the community to stand with them in the fight for a new school fence. They lined the roads with signs to inform the community about the sorry state of their school’s fencing.

According to the school principal, Wesley Neumann, and the councillor for ward 72, Kevin Southgate, the fight for a new fence has been ongoing for about eight years, with Southgate spearheading the appeals to the Western Cape Education Department (WCED).

In a recent media statement, Neumann said: “The school fence is porous and non-existent in certain areas along the boundary of the school.”

He added that it had not been replaced in 59 years.

In a previous interview, he told People’s Post (“Vandalism, theft on the rise at school”, 28 January) that the holes in the fence posed a serious security risk for the children and had facilitated the theft of crucial teaching tools.

“The perpetrators can easily gain access to the school grounds as the school fence is in dire need of replacement and repair, and huge holes therein allows for this. The thieves easily gain access to classrooms by breaking through the asbestos roof and entering through the ceiling. This modus operandi was used in approximately 25 break-ins that occurred at HHS,” Neumann explained.

Southgate said one of the reasons for the delay in replacing it is because the school is categorised as a Quintile 5 school. Schools in the poorest communities are classified as Quintile 1 and schools serving the wealthiest communities are classified as Quintile 5. This benchmark affects the school allocation amount that the government believes is the minimum needed by each learner.

“We’ve been told there’s a long list of schools in need of new fencing. As a result, we have to wait our turn,” said Southgate.

Neumann said: “Ironically, the school is erroneously classified as a Quintile 5 school which means that the school, with its limited funds, must try and repair or replace the stolen and damaged equipment ourselves.”

According to Southgate, the demonstration by learners came after the school was approved for a partial fencing upgrade during that month. But locals deemed the solution inappropriate for the problem.

The school started a petition on the day too. It hoped to get 1 000 signatures over a month. It ended up getting 2 200 in 72 hours.

The petition is meant to be sent to the WCED in support of the school’s cause.


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