20 August 2019
Broken windows, no running water or working toilets, and asbestos contamination through dilapidated ceiling boards: these are just some of the infrastructure faults pointed out by parents at Waveren High in Tulbagh, Western Cape.
A portion of the school is made up of “plankie” building materials which deteriorate over time and are easily damaged by adverse weather.
On Tuesday morning, parents, learners and staff at Waveren picketed outside the school gates, demanding that the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) renovate the school. It was the second time parents demonstrated after teaching at the school was brought to a halt on Monday.
The pickets followed a meeting between parents and the school governing body on Sunday afternoon, where they were informed that plans to fix the school’s infrastructure would again be delayed. Representatives from the WCED were expected to meet with parents on Monday evening, but this never happened.
“Waveren is one of the oldest schools in the area which means it still has asbestos in the roofs. The plug points and other electrical work are old and no longer working. There is no water or good working toilets for learners to use. It’s just not a healthy environment for our children or the teachers,” said Gavin Buttress, chairperson of the school governing body.
He said the school alerted the department to severe damage to the school building caused by a storm in June. Buttress said parents grew tired of waiting for the WCED to deliver on its promises to fix the school.
Bronagh Hammond, spokesperson for the WCED, said the department was informed that the roof and ceilings in three classrooms and the admin area needed repairs. “Public Works has assessed the buildings. Repair work and other maintenance needs are due to start in October,” she said.
Hammon confirmed that the ‘plankie’ portion of the school is due to be partly replaced next year with new classrooms and a new school hall. The estimated date of completion is 2022, Hammond said.
But Buttress said interim repairs were needed to ensure that learning at the school continues in a safe environment for learners and staff. “In the meantime, our children will still sit in these dire conditions … What will happen if one of the ceilings collapse and injure or is killed? We will continue protests until we get proper answers from the department,” he said.