Cape Town - 180312 - Uitsig High School in Uitsig has been closed down but residents are determined to reopen the school - Photographer - Tracey Adams
Cape Town - 180312 - Uitsig High School in Uitsig has been closed down but residents are determined to reopen the school - Photographer - Tracey Adams

Concerns raised over disused Cape school buildings posing a crime risk

By Sisonke Mlamla Time of article published Apr 15, 2021

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Cape Town - The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) and the Department of Transport and Public Works (DTPW) have been blamed for leaving disused school buildings to be stripped and vandalised, posing a risk to nearby communities.

A recent example was the property on which Uitsig High School was located, which was handed back to the DTPW after the school's closure in 2019.

Education MEC Debbie Schäfer's spokesperson, Kerry Mauchline, said Beauvallon High School in Valhalla Park is still open. However, they are aware of an “old Central Primary School” building in Diep River, which she said would have been handed back to the DTPW prior to 2000.

South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) provincial chairperson Bongikhaya Qhama said those buildings have become a playground for criminals, who apparently dump dead bodies.

Qhama said that showed a lack of responsibility from the two departments.

"You will never see these in the affluent areas, these are mostly in the black and coloured townships."

He said there should be proper consultations with communities, “and that the two departments should meet and discuss on how to deal with those problems faced by poor townships due to disused buildings”.

Mauchline said the handing over of closed school buildings on WCED-owned land was not a frequent occurrence.

She said once a school building is no longer in use due to the school being closed, the property is handed back to the DTPW, the custodian of Western Cape government land.

"Once we have handed the buildings/land over, the usage and securing of the property is determined by the DTPW as custodian," said Mauchline.

Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (Fedsas) deputy chief executive Jaco Deacon said in most instances the reason for the department to close a school, was either too small, low numbers, or it would cost them more to fix the school if it is dilapidated than to provide transport.

Deacon said the communities around the disused buildings should lay a complaint to the municipality, so that they could use their by-laws to compel the owner of the property to safeguard it.

DTPW spokesperson Jandré Bakker said securing the disused buildings depended on the type of property and the associated risk that could take the form of lower-level interventions such as erecting fences to other interventions which include employing security companies to guard the properties.

Bakker said there were risks to buildings which were vandalised because not only could structures become unstable, but theft of infrastructure could lead to secondary issues like fires.

ANC provincial spokesperson on education, Khalid Sayed, said the biggest problem was the WCED that was hell-bent on closing down schools and abandoned the buildings after closing schools.

“The ANC will pose a question to the WCED regarding the number of schools that have been closed down since 2009 and ask for details of what happened to each of those buildings afterwards,” said Sayed.

Cape Argus

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