Hundreds of Ennerdale Secondary School pupils stay at home, fearing another Hoërskool Driehoek tragedy

2019-03-06 06:15
Part of the school that has been closed

Part of the school that has been closed (Ntwaagae Seleka)

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More than 1 100 pupils from Ennerdale Secondary School are languishing at home following fears they could become victims of a tragedy similar to the one that claimed the lives of four pupils at Hoërskool Driehoek.

Since a concrete slab collapsed onto a corridor at the Vanderbijlpark school in February, killing the four children, parents of pupils at the Ennerdale Secondary School have decided to keep their children at home.

PICS: 'We don't want another Driehoek situation' – Ennerdale school shut amid collapse fears

Concerned parents and employees claim that a walkway connecting two blocks is unstable as it vibrates when walked on.

Several large cracks can be seen on the structure. In 2016, scaffolding poles were put in place to support the walkways. But parents say the owner of the scaffolding is now demanding the poles back.

Ennerdale Secondary School

Ennerdale Secondary School

                       Scaffolding holds up walkway between two blocks at Ennerdale Secondary Schools (Ntwaagae Seleka)

There are signs of infrastructure damage to other parts of the school building. Roof tiles have shifted in some areas, while in one classroom plaster around a window has peeled back, revealing cement and padding.

Currently, only 114 Grade 12 pupils are attending school. They have been moved to another block of classrooms that have been deemed safe.

Chairperson of the school governing body Delphine Botha said it had been agreed with parents that teaching and learning would only resume once the department had provided mobile classrooms and toilets.

On February 22, parents and some pupils marched to the office of MEC for education Panyaza Lesufi seeking his urgent intervention.

"The following day after we handed a memorandum to Lesufi's office, officials from our district flocked at the school to inspect the building and we agreed that three days later, pupils will return back to classrooms. We then realised that the situation was still not safe for our teachers to walk up and down the stairways changing classrooms," Botha said.

During a parents' meeting on February 26, it was then agreed that teaching and learning should again be suspended for two days.

Intervention

On February 28, parents then escalated their plight and headed to the office of Minister Angie Motshekga seeking her intervention.

Botha said officials from Motshekga's office, accompanied by a structural engineer, arrived at the school on March 1 and inspected the building.

"The engineer declared that the two walkways linking to the administration block and classrooms, a building housing toilets and 21 classrooms are not safe and must not be utilised by anyone anymore. We told the engineer that we need temporary classrooms and temporary toilets.

"So far we have only three toilets that are used by our Grade 12 learners," she said. 

Botha added that there were 21 extra classrooms that could be used by Grade 10 and Grade 11 pupils. But, there are no toilets that the two grades can use.

"We have told the engineer that as soon as they bring temporary toilets, Grade 10 and Grade 11 pupils will immediately return to class. Regarding the Grade 8 and Grade 9 pupils, they will only return to school once mobile classrooms have been brought to the school. The Gauteng department of education must shoulder the blame. Its officials have been aware of the situation at our school and they failed to act on time.

"We don't want our children to go back to a building that is unsafe and could collapse and kill them," she concluded.

Concern

Spokesperson Steve Mabona said the Gauteng department of education had appointed a service provider for the rehabilitation of the two walkways.

"What we know and we are advocating is for all learners to go back to school. There have been delays in the appointment of the service provider. We are concerned about disruptions of teaching and learning. We hope that at the beginning of the second term, the structures would have been rehabilitated.

"We are pleading for some mechanism to assist learners going back to their classrooms," he said.

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