Ons is vreskriklik opgewonde. Ons harte klop behoorlik, amper uit ons borskaste uit.”
With these words, PC Petersen Primary School headmaster, Shuaib September, described how he, his colleagues and the Kylemore community feel about the new school building complex nearing completion adjacent to the existing school.
Bolander spoke to Mr September on Thursday last week, during a walk-through of the construction site with MEC for Transport and Public Works, Donald Grant, in anticipation of the completion of section one of the project, on Tuesday May 28.
Mr September has taught at the school for 33 years of its 50-year existence.
During his formal presentation, Western Cape Education Department (WCED) project leader, Clive Truter, said: “The new school will accommodate 620 pupils, compared to the existing school, which accommodates 580 pupils.”
The new school comprises:
16 standard classrooms, including two for Grade R,
one science laboratory room,
one multi-purpose classroom,
one multi-media classroom,
a school hall with feeding kitchen and toilet facilities,
an administrative building, and
Project lead architect, Jaco Niemann of Rise Architects, explained some of the innovations introduced during the design and execution phases of the project.
“The hall was designed to accommodate 1 200 people. This will cater for future growth of the school, but it will also give the Kylemore community access to a facility for community functions and activities, that it has never had before.
“When we started construction, we had to truck in treated non-potable water, but the demand was such that we had to drill a borehole.
“Storage tanks will be erected, and borehole water will be reticulated to toilets, for watering of gardens and sports fields and so forth, to reduce the school’s potable water use.
“Once the new school is occupied, the old school buildings will be demolished and the land will be converted into sports fields.
“The gradient between these two areas will be sloped and grassed, so that it can accommodate spectators for sporting and other events, rather than incurring the expense of erecting pavilion facilities.”
This comprises section two of the project, and completion is planned for September 22. It will commence once the staff and pupils have moved into the new school complex, which is planned for June 18, according to Mr Truter.
A news report on the morning of the walk-around said that the construction firm executing the project, Group Five, had been placed in business rescue.
Group Five managing director coastal, Eduan van Rooyen, who attended the walk-around, told Bolander: “I must say this came as a surprise to us, but we (the construction industry) do go through difficult times. I have a number of discussions that I must have to see what options we’ve got to make sure we complete the project.
“From our side, and the team’s side here, we are going to do our utmost to complete the school.”
Turning to interaction with the community, Mr Van Rooyen said: “The cooperation we have had from the community is commendable. We’ve built schools elsewhere where it has not gone as well.
“But the cooperation we’ve had here, it has been an absolute pleasure working with the community, along with the professional team and their proactive, solutions-oriented approach.”
Mr Grant also extended his thanks for the level of community cooperation.
“We’ve encountered difficulties elsewhere in the construction of new schools, which has either delayed or stopped such projects. It’s wonderful to see this level of support in our drive to bring quality education to every pupil, throughout the province,” he said.
School governing body chairperson, Lionel Florence, raised with Mr Grant the matter of two additional classrooms for Grade R pupils.
He said that an application had been formally submitted to the WECD for the construction of these two additional classrooms, to accommodate the inclusion of early childhood development (ECD) at the new school complex.
The request for the ECD classrooms had been turned down. After the walk-around, Mr Grant stated that he was confident a solution could be found. “In the walk, I’ve been briefed and I think that we can, and will make a plan.”
Mr September told Bolander that the counselling facility established at PC Petersen Primary School by Stellenbosch NGO, Community Keepers, in 2017 (“The children’s keepers”, Bolander, May 10 2017) will be accommodated in the new school complex.
Mr Grant spoke to Bolander after the formal programme, about the significance of quality schooling facilities in rural areas.
“We simply can’t afford to neglect our rural kids, and obviously, when there is pressure in an urban environment, you tend to prioritise that, simply because it is a numbers game,” he said.
“But what we need to think about carefully going forward, is that asymmetric economic development is as critical to the future, and the risks to the children are much lower and if you have good quality education in such an area, with dedicated staff, children in a rural area can do exceptionally well.
“In fact, if you look at the results in the Western Cape as a whole, the Overberg area last year, as I recall, outshone – it was our top district out of the eight districts. So certainly there is a need to invest in the rural areas with quality infrastructure, backed up by sound leadership and management at our schools,” Mr Grant added.
“And it’s for the children to benefit – that is the overriding thing. One hopes that one creates opportunities for them, and that they grab those opportunities with both hands and turn them into results that unlock opportunities for them in the future.