WCED firm on demands

2019-03-12 06:00
A notice appears on the entrance wall to Parkwood Primary indicating the demand for the school to be rebuilt, along with Hyde Park and Montague Gift Primary Schools.

A notice appears on the entrance wall to Parkwood Primary indicating the demand for the school to be rebuilt, along with Hyde Park and Montague Gift Primary Schools.

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The Western Cape Education Department has reaffirmed their stance on their ongoing programme to redress schools built during apartheid.

This is in response to the growing concern by Parkwood residents which resulted in three primary schools - Hyde Park, Montague’s Gift, and Parkwood - being shut down on Thursday 7 March.

Residents first held a picket outside Parkwood Primary School last month (“Picketers’ ultimatum”, People’s Post, 12 February). This was followed by increased action as residents were not satisfied with the level of interaction, they were receiving from the WCED (“Parkwood stalemate looms”, People’s Post, 5 March).

Parkwood community leader Paul Phillips says that while no primary school children in the area attended school, they were kept busy with activities in public parks on the day while they engaged with the WCED, handing over another memorandum of demands.

“We had a huge police presence, good turnout by the residents. They (WCED) were given three working days to establish a collective steering committee which will consist of all three governing bodies’ chairpersons, principals and then a collective who will represent the community,” says Phillips.

He explains that once the committee is established, they are then urged to hold a public meeting within seven working days of their establishment.

“The demand in the memorandum is that we are not going to settle for anything less and not going to negotiate around maintenance. We reject any measure which they (WCED) want to implement in the interim to maintain. We are saying that we want our schools to be rebuilt. We expect them to source the funds within the next financial year and give us an indication of when this will happen. We need an implementation date and a date when the facilities will be finished building,” Phillips says.

WCED head of communications Bronagh Hammond says they are aware of the dire state of a number of schools, not only in Parkwood but in the province as a whole and that 65 so-called “plankie schools” have been replaced in the province since 2012.

“That is why we are, in addition to maintenance programmes and building new schools, trying to replace these structures complete with brick and mortar schools. We prioritise this, despite increased pressure for new schools and financial pressure,” says Hammond.

She adds the WCED prioritises schools for replacement in terms of needs based on the existing structure, but unfortunately, they cannot all be rebuilt at the same time.

“It is a backlog that we are determined to decrease. Unfortunately, we do not have the funds, or the manpower, to do it at the rate that some people demand,” Hammond adds.

She confirms the rebuilding of old apartheid school structures remains a priority, with roughly R400m a year budgeted for this.

“In addition, over R500m is spent on maintenance each year, and R600m for new schools,” she says.

Hammond confirmed that teachers reported to the WCED’s district office in Ottery.

“The WCED have and will continue to engage with the SGBs of the school. An assessment of the school buildings will also take place,” she adds.

While the WCED has long term plans for the area, including the replacement of schools, Hammond says they cannot be forced into placing these schools at the top of their replacement list when there are more immediate concerns to consider.

“The WCED has a 10-year infrastructure plan that has considered the demand and supply of education infrastructure across the whole province. It also determines timelines and schedules according to available budget,” she says, adding: “Our priority is learner and educator safety and therefore an assessment will be conducted to determine immediate safety needs.”

V A detailed schedule of the Western Cape government’s construction plans can be found on: https://www.westerncape.gov.za/sites/www.westerncape.gov.za/files/u_-_amp_2018-19_final_document.pdf

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