Cape Town. 120823. A debate hosted by the Western Cape Education Department over the closure of Protea Primary in Bonteheuwel at the Bluegum community centre. Parents and students voiced their opinions with plackards and feverishly shouting comments. Reporter Michelle Jones. Picture Courtney Africa

Cape Town -

Lavis Rylaan, one the Cape Flats’ oldest primary schools, has a close-knit community, is centrally located and a plan to close it would be senseless, Western Cape Education Department officials were told on Thursday night.

The officials met the school’s community in Bishop Lavis on Thursday night as part of a series of public meetings on an education department plan to close 27 schools in the Western Cape.

At the meeting, parents and others vowed to resist any attempt to shut down the school built 48 years ago.

They said its environment was safe for pupils, parents had already registered their children for next year and some had purchased new uniforms this year.

If Lavis Rylaan was closed pupils would have to travel, placing a financial burden on parents, the officials heard.

“The Lavis Rylaan community makes it abundantly clear that we will not allow this school to be closed,” said school governing body member Mike Hofmeester.

“This school was built when people were sent here during the time of [apartheid] forced removals, so there is a rich heritage here.”

He said residents had promised to help the school in any practical way they could.

The local neighbourhood watch promised to assist with maintenance.

“They will also guard the school free of charge,” Hofmeester said.

The community’s stance mirrored Protea Primary in Bonteheuwel where officials were told on Wednesday that the school was more than a institution of learning.

More than 200 teachers, parents and pupils had gathered at the Bluegum Community Centre to argue why Protea should remain open.

The department has suggested a number of nearby schools pupils could attend should Protea be closed.

Parent, Leonie Napoleon,

said teachers treated pupils as if they were their own children. If pupils came to school hungry, they would get food. If they arrived dirty, they would be given soap and water. If a child came to school without shoes, a teacher would pay for a new pair out of her small salary.

“Hands off our 27 schools in the Western Cape. We are here to say Protea Primary gaan oop bly (will stay open). We will not sit back and see how Protea will be brought down. Hands off Protea,” she said.

Several pupils were adamant that the school should not be closed. Grade 6 pupil Zubeida Harting said she did not want to go elsewhere: “Here we are one big family.”

Public hearings are to be held on Saturday at two schools.

Beauvallon Secondary, with 521 pupils, faces closure because of consistent underperformance in all grades and a high drop-out rate. Zonnebloem Nest Senior School has a high drop-out rate and the buildings are in a poor condition. It has 309 pupils.

Members of the public may make written submissions to the provincial education department. The public hearings are expected to continue until September 3.

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Cape Times