School is falling apart

Grade 1 pupil Aishah Ismail stands on an eroded balustrade at Eisleben Road Primary School in Rocklands.

A Rocklands primary school is an accident waiting to happen – with classroom ceilings caving in, chunks of concrete dropping from the balcony, eroding floors and loose balusters from the upper balcony balustrades.

Eisleben Road Primary School, which opened its doors 37 years ago, was assessed by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) in 2015 and while the provincial Department of Transport and Public Works (DTPW) started with remedial work – only in March this year – there is still much work outstanding.

Due to safety concerns one of the staircases had to be closed last week. A green metal chalk board is tied with wire to the balustrade to keep pupils away as the railings are loose.

Principal Gregory Maarman said the school had explored all avenues to raise their safety concerns. He said there are two separate intervals for the younger and older pupils.

“We must ensure that the little ones don’t play there. They must play at the back, far away from the buildings,” he said.

He said they have put up signs for pupils to “please be careful”.

Mr Maarman said the upkeep of the school building formed part of the the school governing body (SGB) mandate and that vice-chairperson Zainap Adriaanse had been delegated to tackle this maintenance concern with authorities.

Ms Adriaanse said they feared for the pupils’ safety and that if the school building was not secure, they would have to seek help from businesses.

She has had to push Grade 1 pupils out of harm’s way to prevent chunks of concrete falling on top of them.

A teacher had also twisted her ankle because of the delamination of the concrete, which results in the internal mild steel reinforcing bars protruding through the concrete.

While some of the windows cannot open because they are rusted shut, burglar bars were being put up last week before the week-long school break to protect the school from possible vandalism during the holiday.

“We understand that the school is close to the coast, which can exacerbate the problem and the school building is old but we need to be sure that our pupils are safe,” Ms Adriaanse said.

She said they had given the department a fair chance to respond and that each time their case was pushed back further.

She said last year, being at her wits’ end, she drove to the Western Cape Education Department’s Lentegeur office to complain and drop off photographs of the school’s deterioration.

“The roofs of three classrooms are loose, which has caused the ceiling to soften and leak. The flooring of the upstairs is dropping down,” she said.

She said one shove of the rusted windows would cause the panes to fall out. “We are not concerned about anyone else but the child. Parents want to know that their children are safe and being cared for. Imagine being a parent and you get a call that a piece of concrete has fallen on your child,” Ms Adriaanse said.

Caretaker Desmond Dean said some quick fixes have been made but in the meantime they have had to secure classroom ceilings to prevent further deterioration.

He said a Band Aid was being put on and that the problem was not being solved.

Bronagh Hammond, spokesperson for the WCED, said they were first notified of the problems at the school in August last year. She said the provincial Department of Transport and Public Works commenced with on-site remedial work in March and that the electrical works remain outstanding.

She confirmed that the gutters and downpipes had broken off, that the ceiling needed repair, which was consequential damage caused by roof leaks, and that electrical light fittings needed repair.

Ms Hammond said the department had completed “making safe” the environment and therefore the immediate risk had been addressed.

“Further remedial work, electrical, is required for which DTPW shall submit a proposal to WCED for approval. Submission of such proposal is pending,” she said.

She said the general cause for the deterioration of the building is its age, lack of preventative maintenance and or abuse.

The Plainsman asked whether the school was due for a revamp in 2022 and Ms Hammond replied that the focus of such a project would be remedial work and or replacement of roofs, electrical installation, plumbing, including refurbishment of ablutions, bulk water supply, bulk sewerage discharge and whatever critical defects exist that may pose a risk to health and safety.

Ms Hammond said remedial work that could not await execution of a scheduled maintenance programme project should form part of an emergency maintenance programme.

“The school should notify the WCED of defects that require immediate attention so that the WCED may assist via the emergency maintenance programme,” said Ms Hammond.