Parents at Pauw Gedenk Primary School in Wellington locked the gates to the school yesterday, saying that engineers had declared the 90-year-old building unsafe. Photo: Supplied
Cape Town – Pupils of the Pauw Gedenk Primary School in Wellington were greeted by locked gates when they arrived at school yesterday as parents picketed.

The group stopped pupils and teachers from entering because of warnings that the building was unsafe following an inspection.

Construction at the 90-year-old school began in the second term and has left classrooms unfit for lessons, resulting in pupils receiving lessons outdoors, according to parents.

The school has about 560 pupils from grades 0 to 3.

Disgruntled parent Leandre Agullhas said that they were informed by the school governing body (SGB) that an inspection took place this week.

“We received word from them that the engineers found the site was unsafe and called it a danger zone.

“What upsets us is that the department has not taken the matter seriously. So we decided to lock these gates as we will not allow our children to be taught outside, or for them or the teachers to be at risk,” she said.

Agullhas said that the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) had not provided them with suitable alternative plans.

She said they would continue to picket and not allow the school to be reopened.

The WCED undertook repair work on the building due to the age of the brickwork, which was partially disintegrating, and the first-floor timber supports being under-designed.

Due to the age of the building, the WCED needed to gain Heritage Western Cape’s approval for construction, and had to engage the Department of Transport and Public Works Education Infrastructure to inform the school and district of progress in construction and when the remedial work would be completed.

SGB chairperson Jerry Searle said: “The department has not come to the table and provided us with answers to our problem. They suggested mobile classrooms, but the premises are too small, leaving the children with little or no room to play and they would still need to access the bathrooms in the building.

“Their other suggestions included the use of a hall, which we declined, or having up to 90 pupils taught together, which we cannot allow.”

Searle said the department needed to find a solution and close the school for construction to be completed before the school year began next year.

WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said: “The school is a heritage building. I’ve been informed that there was at no stage a document saying that the school is unsafe. 

"We have identified areas that need maintenance and certain areas have been propped up as a precautionary measure.

“Precautions have been taken until we get permission from Heritage Western Cape to do further structural repairs.”

Hammond said alternative accommodation at Wellington School of Skills and Wellington Primary School had been made available, but the parents did not accept it.

She said the district had engaged with the school and was pushing to get the necessary paperwork and permission to conduct further maintenance.

Cape Times