Johannesburg - The Democratic Alliance in KwaZulu-Natal on Tuesday called on the department of education in the province to provide a full safety report on Westridge High School after a video clip circulating on social media showed students locked behind gates, unable to exit.
DA KZN spokesperson on education Dr Rishigen Viranna said last week's tragedy at Hoërskool Driehoek in Gauteng, where four learners were killed after a walkway connecting two buildings collapsed, had increased scrutiny on school safety, emergency planning and escape routes.
"While the DA acknowledges that Westridge is a school for special needs learners and that special measures are needed to ensure their safety, these learners are essentially trapped behind the gates and unable to escape in the event of an emergency," Viranna said.
He noted that the KZN provincial parliament's education portfolio committee had last July conducted an oversight inspection of the premises at Westridge after numerous complaints from both parents and learners regarding the school gates.
“It was established via both the principal and the deputy principal that the internal gates were locked but only after school hours," Viranna said.
"The local DA councillor also arranged for eThekwini fire inspectors to visit the school where they were given the same assurance.”
“It is clear from the current video clip that both the principal and deputy principal purposefully misled portfolio committee,” he added.
Viranna said other findings during last year's inspection included rampant corporal punishment and teacher intimidation.
At the time, the education portfolio committee resolved that an urgent district investigation into the school's practices take place, but to date this report remained outstanding, he said, adding: "The current situation at Westridge High is a failure of the member of the executive council of education to act."
"The DA will write to KZN education portfolio committee chairperson Linda Hlongwa-Madlala to request that the above-mentioned report be tabled before the committee as soon as possible. We will also request that the committee censure both the principal and deputy principal for misleading members."
African News Agency (ANA)