The Western Cape Education Department strongly condemns action by protestors at Solomon Qatyana Primary School in Llwandle yesterday (Tuesday, 14 March) who took our circuit manager hostage for several hours.
This is totally unacceptable, especially at a time when we are focusing our approach on greater care, support and development of our schools.
Dr Henk Punt, our circuit manager, was visiting the principal yesterday morning when the Chair of the Governing Body, Mrs P Makhubela, insisted that he inspect the school's toilets.
According to Dr Punt, Mrs Makhubela locked the door of the toilet block from the outside once he and the principal had entered.
Learners then arrived with posters and toi-toied at the toilets from 11h40 to 13h22 when police arrived and took Dr Punt to the staff room where he was kept against his will until 15h00.
Dr Punt was not well, and informed his captors accordingly. They ignored this and engaged in long discussions and negotiations until they allowed him to leave.
Those holding him would not allow him to leave until he had signed an undertaking to move plans for replacing the school forward from 2020 to 2017. He could not do so, because he has no authority to make such an undertaking.
The WCED is implementing a programme to replace schools built of inappropriate materials, mainly "plankie" schools that are several decades old.
We have noted complaints reported in the media concerning the toilets at Solomon Qatyana.
It should be noted that the department has already appointed a contractor to service the toilets and electrical fittings in the ablution block, in addition to repairing the floors of some classrooms.
The school is aware of this. The contractor is already on site. The value of the contract is R210 000.
In addition, the department allocated R200 993 to the school for day-to-day maintenance in 2016/17, including maintenance and cleaning of the ablution facilities.
Dr Punt has laid a criminal charge with the police. The department will investigate this whole incident fully and hold those responsible to account.
The WCED has replaced 51 schools across the province since 2010 as part of an ongoing programme to replace "plankie" schools.
The department has funded the replacement of 30 schools during this period, while the national ASIDI programme has funded the replacement of 21 schools.
We have to give priority to schools that are in a serious state of disrepair. Some "plankie" schools are nearly 50 years old.
This does not apply to Solomon Qatyana, which comprises mainly mobile classrooms.
The WCED plans to replace about 20 schools over the next three years at a cost to the department of around R1.3 billion, depending on available budget.
The Metro East Education District has identified Solomon Qatyana as one of these schools. We have to prioritise and stagger replacement over several years for budgetary and planning purposes.
The WCED had focused in particular on upgrading and replacing schools in recent years, in addition to building brand new schools.
The department identified 499 schools in 2014 that needed upgrading, and is implementing a programme to do so.
The programme started with 50 schools in 2015 and 60 in 2016. The WCED plans to upgrade up to 100 schools a year, budget permitting.
Issued by: Western Cape Education