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School gets R5M upgrade

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School gets R5M upgrade

by Laverne de Vries
07 Nov 2006
Peoples Post
Peoples Post

Flagged as one of the Western Cape's 100 high-risk schools, Mountview High in Hanover Park is set to receive a R5 million boost in a bid to improve safety.

Gert Witbooi, spokesperson for the Western Cape Department of Education, told People's Post that the cash injection comes from the National Department of Education.

Last week, Education Minister Naledi Pandor announced a R45 million countrywide boost to beef up school security. The money is set to be divided among schools in nine schools - one in each province.

"We obviously welcome the money and have decided to use Mountview High as a flagship for this project," Witbooi said. "The money will be used for infrastructural needs to make the school safer. This includes alarms, fences and closed circuit camera systems."

Asked why the whole amount would be spent on Mountview High only, Witbooi replied, "We are engaging with national government about spending it on one school, but the school was chosen as a pilot because of various indicators such as criminal acts in the community and violent incidents at the school."

The money will be handled by the Safer Schools Project, which is currently in negotiations on a business plan for the school. Safer Schools was launched in 1997 by the Western Cape Education Department as a means of making schools safer.

The project has provided schools across the Peninsula with security measures such as alarms and fences and has also employed volunteers to bolster safety at high-risk schools. The national directive follows a provincial debate on school safety.

In May this year, Education MEC Cameron Dugmore was reported as saying that more than a quarter of the Western Province's schools are high-risk schools. His warning followed a Safer Schools report that 1 038 incidents were reported to the programme from January to March this year alone.

Commenting on the issue, Archie Benjamin, Mountview High's principal, said the school welcomes the funding.

"Obviously this will go a long way towards making the school a safe environment for both teachers and pupils. We see it as a step in the right direction." He added that the school has been burgled five times during this year alone.

Although Mountview is also known as a sporting school, Benjamin says the school has not been able to excel at sport because of safety concerns.

"We have a poor-quality fence that contains the pupils, but we don't have a boundary fence to protect the pupils from the Main Road. With the help of this money, we may be able to get a proper boundary fence. This means that we will be able to use our sports field because there will be no safety risks for the pupils," says Benjamin. Dino Abrahams, principal of the neighbouring Crystal High, also welcomed the move.

"We hope it will improve security at the school. My only concern or request is that the Education Department uses local labour to carry out the upgrade. In that way the community benefits and the school will have less chance of being burgled because the community has some sort of ownership."

The upgrade is planned for March 2007.

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