News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Monday July 22nd 2019

Engineers confirm Atlantis primary school is unsafe

SGB chair Shane Jennicker holds a chain used to lock the main entrance to the school premises . Behind him are educators sitting in a shade. Photo. Peter Luhanga/WCN

Avondale Primary school SGB chairperson Shane Jennicker ensures the school gates remain locked until the state of the unsafe infrastructure is addressed to their satisfaction. Behind him are educators sitting in the shade on the street outside the school. Photo. Peter Luhanga/WCN.

A global consulting, engineering, management and specialist technical services firm (Aurecon) has validated concerns by Atlantis Avondale primary School Governing Body that the school building is unsafe for pupils.

Upset with the state of the school, the SGB and parents forcibly shut the school down on Wednesday, 20 January.

Hundreds of pupils carrying placards denouncing the condition of the school protested outside the gates in Eve Avenue where the school is situated.

The school has remained closed since. During a visit to the school on Thursday last week, about 20 educators were seen sitting in the shade of an erected tent. There were no pupils in sight.

In reply to the SGB and parents’ frustrations, the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) appointed Aurecon to conduct a safety assessment of the school to determine the safety of the school infrastructure.

Aurecon submitted the report toWCED officials and the SGB and parents on Wednesday.

The findings, which West Cape News have seen, confirm that there are various safety and healthy risks at the school.

“These risks include but are not limited to: tripping hazards at uneven exterior walkways, electrical hazards at exposed switch and lighting connections, unclean bathrooms and blocked drainage channels and stormwater system, broken windows and timber-propped hand basins,” stated the report, which recommended these areas be cordoned off until repaired.

With respect to structural integrity, the main concern, Aurecon’s assessment revealed deterioration due to weathering and vandalism of the steel balustrades and recommending the area be closed off or approved railing be installed until the balustrade is repaired.

SGB chairperson Shane Jennicker said at a meeting held on Wednesday attended by parents, WCED officials and Aurecon engineers, the WCED proposed that some pupils be placed in classrooms that are deemed safe and other pupils relocated to other schools, together with their educators.

Jennicker said educators and parents have since vowed to not allow pupils and educators to be relocated and parents do not want maintenance work to be done, insisting on new school infrastructure being built instead.

“Other sections (of the school infrastructure) are rotten and underneath the ground. How are they going to fix them? Excavate them?”

Jennicker said they suggested that temporary mobile classrooms be provided so learning can resume while funds to build a new school are sought.

However, WCED officials said it costs R400 000 per mobile classroom and the department did not have that kind of money lying around.

Cosatu has come out in support of the SGB’s decisions, with Cosatu provincial leader Tony Ehrenreich stating in an open letter to Western Cape Premier Helen Zille that they “support the community’s call that the learners not be returned to the unsafe situation at the school, until urgent repairs are affected”.

Attempts to get hold of Education MEC Debbie Schaffer’s spokesperson Jessica Shelver or WCED director of communication Paddy Attwell, were fruitless as their phones went unanswered and they did not respond to an email requesting comment – Peter Luhanga/WCN


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