SAHRC inspects conditions at vandalised Cape Town school

2017-01-24 18:08
Conditions at Uitsig Secondary School (Jenni Evans, News24)

Conditions at Uitsig Secondary School (Jenni Evans, News24)

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Cape Town - The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) paid a surprise visit to the severely vandalised Uitzig Secondary School in Cape Town on Tuesday, ahead of a protest by pupils outside the provincial legislature to demand that it is repaired and guarded.

Provincial SAHRC commissioner Chris Nissen and colleagues took in the stripped kitchen, smashed toilets, plundered electricity cables, as well as a trench dug by thieves who stole water pipes.

In an area declared unsafe, and cordoned off with wire, the delegation stepped gingerly through the remnants of ceiling boards with sharp nails protruding, shards of broken glass, and rotten food strewn around the classrooms and ablution blocks.

The textbook storeroom had also been broken into, with thieves climbing through the roof, kicking the ceiling panels out, and then making off with the books, which are sold as scrap paper.

The school has no electricity and has only one functional tap that was repaired by a plumber arranged by Congress of SA Trade Unions provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich.

This outside tap supplies the entire school with water, and a hose pipe has been fitted to supply water to the prefabricated toilet block. The sandy school grounds are littered with broken glass.

School transfers

While the unsafe area has been cordoned off with a wire fence, teaching is continuing in clean new prefabricated classrooms brought in by the education department as a temporary fix.

These accommodate around 200 pupils who refuse to budge.

Rubble and discarded animal bones from a butcher lie strewn about on a road leading to the school from a run-down block of flats.

Next door is the new Tygersig Primary School, where all the windows and entrances have sturdy mesh over them and two security guards for protection.

The education department has said that it has tried to transfer the children to nearby Ravensmead, because of the school's condition.

Education MEC Debbie Schafer believes that allowing the teachers and pupils to continue at Uitzig Secondary School would be a violation of their human rights.

The only working tap at the school. The hose pipe supplies the new prefab toilets. (Jenni Evans, News24)

Dropout risk

The handful of teachers left at the school - where the reception area was in darkness because there was no electricity - did not want to speak for fear of violating department policy.

Later, a group of around 150 pupils, parents and their supporters protested at the Western Cape provincial legislature.

They demanded that Premier Helen Zille and the education department prioritise fixing the school.

"The children will have to change their subjects, we will have to buy new school uniforms, the walk is long, and some will definitely drop out," said an angry Chantal Simons.

"The school is being guarded now by us," said Simons, demanding that Schafer step in and help them.

"There are five primary schools in the area, and only this high school. Where will the children go to?" asked Simons.

She said that even the school feeding scheme had ground to a halt because of the uncertainty, leaving many poor children hungry.

Tygersig Primary next to Uitzig High is heavily fortified with a guard house and guards. (Jenni Evans, News24)

Fences stolen

Schafer said last week that the guards posted at the school by the department had been targeted by the thieves and vandals who were literally carrying the school off brick by brick.

Uitzig community activist Pastor Alex Alexander claimed the department had allowed the school to become a target by failing to maintain it.

Department chief director responsible for districts, Clifton Frolick, accepted a memorandum from Grade 12 pupil Chanae Slinger.

The memorandum contained the pupils' and parents' demands that the school be fixed.

Frolick said the school was not officially closed and that just the unsafe section was cordoned off.

The department was trying to find the best option for the school, he said.

Frolic said the community alleged the damage was done by gangsters and people with substance abuse problems.

Thieves break through the roof to steal whatever they can including textbooks to be sold to paper recyclers.

"But we do not see evidence of a community that wants to protect the school," he said.

Asked whether a higher or stronger fence would help, his colleague, deputy director of institutional matters, Tau Matseliso, said: "Three fences have already been stolen."

Frolick said the councillors in the area also needed to step up and deal with the rubbish thrown into the streets near the school.

Schooling continues in neat prefabs. (Jenni Evans, News24)

Read more on:    sahrc  |  debbie schäfer  |  cape town  |  education

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