School labelled asbestos hazard still open
Cape Town - A Cape Flats primary school is still open despite being declared an asbestos hazard two months ago.
Now parents are fuming because their children are being exposed to the deadly substance every day.
But they are reluctant to take their children out of class because it will disrupt their schooling.
Eurecon Primary School in Connaught Road, Elsies River, was recently vandalised and set alight by thieves, exposing the asbestos in the roofs of the classrooms.
The rubble is currently being removed by a contractor.
The Western Cape Education Department has put up a sign at the school, warning the public to stay off the grounds.
Parents at the school told the Daily Voice their children have started suffering from chest and breathing ailments.
More than 530 children attend the primary school.
Mary-Anne Festers, 29, from Elsies River, said her son, seven-year-old Montel Meyer, is really ill.
“I am worried because already now we’ve had problems with his chest and I had to keep him at home for a week,” she said.
On the school fence, there is a sign warning people that there is asbestos on the property and that they must keep out.
“Do not enter. Asbestos removal in progress. Wear protective clothing. No admittance, authorised personnel only,” it reads.
Just a few metres away from the burnt-out remains of the classrooms, pupils line up to enter their classrooms.
Teachers are trying their best to keep the children away from the site, but it is difficult and they slip in without anyone noticing.
Teacher Wilhelmina November said: “When the wind blows or it rains, you can still smell the fire in the air because the stuff from that building blows all over the school.”
She lost all her lesson plans and books in the fire.
On March 2, two classrooms at the school were burgled and vandalised.
The next day the thieves came back and burnt down the classrooms, a store room and toilets.
Eurecon Primary School Principal Frank Agulhas said even though he reported the matter to the Western Cape Education Department, their response has been slow.
“School is still on and it’s the department who must make these decisions. I can’t just close the school,” said Agulhas.
“The department sent us mobile toilets because we can’t use the other toilets, but that was their only response.
“It was only after Easter when a safety officer came here and told us about the asbestos and put up the signs.”
The principal said he’s between a rock and a hard place.
“The parents come to me because they are angry and disappointed because they can see the asbestos signs here and the school is still open,” he said.
But parents say if the school is closed, arrangements must be made to send their children to other schools temporarily.
Festers said: “I don’t understand why this is taking so long and nothing has been done for so many months.”
Magadelene Blankenberg, 36, from Elsies River, said her son Morgen has also not been well.
“One night I was up with him and this chest of his, and my sister said to me that I must get it sorted out,” she said.
Spokesperson for the WCED Jessica Shelver said they are not aware of learners being affected by the asbestos.
She said: “We have not received any reports of learners suffering with persistent coughs. A health and safety inspector has visited the school.”
She added: “The contractor has surrounded the whole area with hazard tape and placed signs warning people not to enter this area.
“The WCED is confident that the contractor is taking all necessary precautions, and is removing the building in line with requirements for removing materials containing asbestos.”