IT HAS taken six years for South Peninsula High principal Brian Isaacs to get more space for his overcrowded school.
To highlight the need for more space, the school took a symbolic walk to the disused Central Primary School in Diep River in May. Their action has finally proven victorious.
Isaacs says: “The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) turned down my first application, saying it was not viable on the grounds that they have already built extra classrooms on top of the main building. This was still not enough to accommodate the 1200 pupils in a school built for 800 and sometimes we have to hold classes in the school hall.”
After the march Isaacs was visited by provincial education directors John Lyners and Archie Lewis, who agreed the popular high school is in dire need of physical upgrade.
They have supported his application to occupy the disused school, which is owned by the Department of Public Works.
Paddy Attwell, WCED Director of Communication, confirmed this, saying the department has invited Isaacs “to submit new proposals in June on how to use the buildings”.
These have been submitted to the public works department, says Attwell.
“The option is attractive to the WCED because we may be able to modify our plans for expanding South Peninsula. Meanwhile, the WCED has completed plans to replace nine prefabricated classrooms with a double-storey block of 18 new classrooms at South Peninsula. We plan to start building the new block next year.”
He says the school could use the old primary school for other needs, such as dance rooms and the library. “Our planners still have to finalise these plans in consultation with the school.”
Central Primary School was opened in the 1950s, but was closed by the Group Areas Act. The army moved in, followed by a security company. The empty buildings are neglected, the fence is broken and the grounds are overgrown.
The need to expand South Peninsula High has become urgent. Isaacs says: “We have 1 000 applications from pupils a year, and can only take 200. Students come from Mitchell’s Plain, Strandfontein, Retreat, Heathfield, Grassy Park, Lavender Hill, Lansdowne, Wetton, Ottery, Athlone and Khayelitsha. Everyone wants to come here because we have 100% pass rates most years, and many of the students go on to UCT and UWC.”
The principal of Lavender Hill Senior Secondary School, Faseeg Manie, says he is pleased South Peninsula would get the support it needs.
“Their building is like ours, quite derelict. Our school is also full to capacity. We don’t have enough classrooms, but it is not on our radar to expand as we haven’t got the funds. We have 1064 pupils and, on average, have to turn away about 50 pupils a term.”
He says they have to apply to the head office in Mitchell’s Plain to find a school.
Marcia Wolward, principal of Grassy Park High, says: “We have six classrooms which have been condemned for safety reasons by Public Works. I have been writing to them for two to three years, and they say we are on the priority list.
“We have several teachers who have to move from class to class, and some classes are held in any available rooms. We have 1050 pupils and about 220 applications a year. Pupils are mainly from Grassy Park, but we also get applications from Lavender Hill, Retreat, Lotus River and Ottery.”
The selection of pupils at South Peninsula is based on good academic results and those with siblings at the school are top of the list. There are 40 to 45 pupils in a class, but Isaacs would prefer classes of 30.
He was inspired to organise the walk and symbolic occupation of the premises by former Central Primary pupil Dr Taj Hargey, who has a doctorate from Oxford.
Isaacs says Hargey and former pupil Derek Hanslo, a chartered accountant, were “keen to do something about their old school and suggested we walk to the building, 400m away”.
“The Central Primary building is basically sound, the floors need sanding and it needs painting. The school is prepared to help with that, but we need the Department of Public Works to provide a new security fence around the grounds.
“The eight classrooms would replace the prefabricated classrooms at South Peninsula. We will use the extra space for a laboratory, arts and culture, and agricultural science.”
Isaacs introduced Agricultural Science for the Grade 10s. He plans to expand this course and has 20 pupils enrolled for next year. He plans to create a global conference room to host pupils from other countries. In July they hosted international students at a cultural event.