Parents of Alpine Primary School protested against alleged mismanagement of the Beacon Valley school on Monday.
The Western Cape Education Department has since undertaken to engage with parents to discuss their concerns and allegations.
Parent Riyaad Kiewiet told the Plainsman they locked the school down and would only speak to the WCED or the school’s circuit manager who later arrived at the scene on Monday April 12.
According to Mr Kiewiet, the protest was led by five parents who were joined by an additional 37 parents in front of the school gates on Monday.
No one was allowed inside the school but later the group allowed staff and pupils inside as pupils needed to continue writing examinations.
The group initially asked for the removal of the school principal but after meeting with the circuit manager on Tuesday April 13, they revised their demands, saying they want the school to be more transparent on their school plans and their children’s educational well-being.
“There is mismanagement at the school. If we have problems, where do we go?” said Mr Kiewiet.
He said there is crime in the area which heavily affects Alpine Primary, and that “teachers are struggling at the school. They had to ask a neighbouring school to assist with copies of school work for pupils,” Mr Kiewiet told the Plainsman.
“We are unhappy as it is not about us but about our children. If teachers are struggling, they can’t teach. We believe this. We are very concerned about their education and this school, in particular, is struggling and heavily affected by crime,” he said.
“We want to see more growth. Security guards are assaulted, there are no funds available and we want to know why, we want answers,” said Mr Kiewiet.
Another parent who was at the protest, Soraya Kamalie, said she has two boys, 6 and 12 at the school. “I would like the school to be more open with the parents and the principal to address us, ensuring our children’s safety at school. Our children should be monitored,” said Ms Kamalie.
“We just want the principal to acknowledge us as parents and assure that the school is running as it should be,” she said.
The Plainsman approached the school for comment but was told to make contact with the WCED as the school did not wish to comment.
Bronagh Hammond, director of communications for the WCED, said the department has arranged to engage with parents to ascertain their exact concerns with regards to the allegations made against the principal.
Ms Hammond said, however, some are similar to those raised by the school governing body previously – which were “completely unfounded”. The same members were part of the protest on Monday April 12, said Ms Hammond.
Last year a protest also erupted at the school with some parents burning tyres in the street where the school is located after operations at the school were temporarily suspended due to the vandalism at the school.
Only 17 toilets were left in working condition for the 1 700 pupils to share. Parents prevented temporary toilets being installed, citing health concerns and insisting that the toilets be repaired as a matter of urgency. Principal Natasha Pather told the Plainsman during a visit on Friday January 31 that their toilets would be functioning fully and the school would be back to normal on Monday February 3.
This week the school ran as per normal yesterday, Tuesday April 13. Arrangements with SAPS were in place to ensure the safety of the school community, Ms Hammond said.
“The WCED will not remove the principal. The school-governing body, nor any organisation has the right to remove a principal. The WCED will of course engage with the organisation regarding their concerns, particularly those around the morale of teachers, however, we cannot entertain disruption to teaching and learning,” said Ms Hammond.
Mitchell’s Plain SAPS spokesperson, Captain Ian Williams, said they received a complaint on Monday at 6.50am of the school being closed. He said allegedly the school governing body was unhappy with the principal and had resolved to close the school by keeping the gates locked and turning pupils and parents away.
However, representatives of the WCED later addressed the parties and school resumed thereafter.
There were no reports of any violence or persons injured. Captain Williams said it is currently unclear at this stage whether any formal complaints had been lodged by any party concerned.