The student governing body (SGB) handed over a memorandum of demands to representatives of the Department of Education (DoE). They were sent to inspect the school and to receive the memorandum.
The parents later dispersed, although they say if they do not receive a response in seven days they will shut down the school for good.
DoE spokesman, Mr Jasper Zwane said they are aware of the situation at the school following an assessment done on March 11, 2019. After receiving the results of the assessment, a process to engage the implementation agent commenced.
“The department will continue to work closely with the school governing body to ensure that an enabling environment for teaching and learning is created at this school. This means that all parties needs to work collaboratively in the best interests of our learners,” he said.
BACKGROUND: In a desperate move the student governing body (SGB) of Klipspringer Primary School will shut down the school today.
About 781 learners are cramped up in classrooms that have a 240-pupil capacity. A civil/structure engineer has also issued a structural inspection report that states the slabs in some of the classrooms have deformed beyond their safety limits. The report states that the roof was inadequately designed and as such is exhibiting classic signs of structural failure.
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The engineer also said the severity cannot be stressed enough as this is a life-threatening situation.
According to Catherine Mokoena, SGB chairman, it is unclear when the slab will cave in. “It could be today, tomorrow, a week or a month from now.” She said the school was due for renovations nine years ago.
It started when Klipspringer informed the SGB about cracks in the roof, who in turn informed the DoE.
“After we waited for the department for a long time, we approached a private engineer to look at the conditions.”
They were told that things were not looking good. They again informed the department which then also brought in an engineer to do inspections. He issued a similar report stating that it is not safe. This report is dated August 30, 2018.
According to Mokoena, the department has done nothing about it to this day.
The SGB said they fear of the safety of the learners and have raised their concerns with the department, however, things remain the same.
The roof is not the only issue at the school. Learners are attending classes outside with no roof or any shelter as the classes are overcrowded. There are about 50 learners per teacher. The law requires a maximum of 40 per teacher.
The grade R and grade one toilets are also used as a storeroom, with windows separating the two. The sickroom is fitted into one of the offices were the teachers meet, since their staff room is being used as a classroom.
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“Nine years ago the department approved renovations, yet they did not do anything about it,” Mokoena said. “Now as parents we have decided that we cannot let our children continue to stay in those classes.
We do not want to use our kids to prove a point by letting them stay in the school until the slab falls on them and kills them.
“We are not willing to take that risk. We have communicated with the department, however, we are not getting help. This is why we have decided to take this step,” she explained. The computer class can only accommodate 24 learners and each class gets an hour, but the teacher has to divide each class into two groups and fit an hour’s lesson into about 30 minutes.
“If a class has more than 50 learners, some do not get a chance to learn,” she explained. The Klipspringer SGB thus intends to totally shut down the school as of 08:00 today in order to hand a memorandum to the head or MEC for education.
“If they don’t attend to the matter, we will not let our children return to school on Monday,” Mokoena told Lowvelder.
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“Failure to adhere to the above urgent request shall result in the commencement of the indefinite shutdown of the school,” the notice to the department reads.
SGBs from other public local primary schools intend to support Klipspringer this morning. Many of them face similar issues of overcrowding, albeit to a lesser degree.
In February 2019 learners from Hoërskool Driehoek died and some were injured after a walkway in the school collapsed.
When Lowvelder contacted the DoE regarding admission and space at local schools, they said the admission processes as prescribed in their guidelines, started in May 2019 and will proceed until the end of August 2019.
It is only after it is closed that the department can establish based on the reports from all public schools if there are challenges. At the time of going to press the department had not responded to the issues regarding the shutdown at Klipspringer Primary School.