Forlorn, vandalised and a haven for vagrants and prostitutes – this is how a neighbour describes Central Primary School (“School still an eyesore,” Bulletin December 15).
The school is located between Mile End and Edgware roads in Diep River, close to the railway line.
Ray Reed, who lives nearby, emailed the Bulletin on Monday January 23 to complain about the building’s deterioration.
He said that the previous night, an upstairs window had been removed giving vagrants easy access.
The building, which has been empty for many years, once had a security guard on site, but no more.
Since then, Mr Reed has seen several women going in and out of the old school and others climbing through the fence and vandalising the building.
Fearing that once vagrants move in it will be hard to get them out, he asked City law enforcement to check on the property, and he also wrote to Frans Modukanela Molehe, the regional security manager of the national Department of Public Works (NDPW) asking them to employ a security guard to look after the government building.
Mr Molehe told him the department had inspected the site on Thursday January 19 and found two vagrants who they had pressed charges against at Diep River police station.
“The department is in process to appoint a security service provider to be able to guard the state vandalised building,” he wrote to Mr Reed.
Diep River police confirmed that two men had been found in the building trying to steal a stainless steel sink.
One escaped but the other, a 56-year-old Steenberg resident, was charged with vandalism and house breaking.
The police said they were patrolling the area and confirmed that vagrants were staying at the school. Councillor Carol Bew visited the school with a Metro police officer on Tuesday January 17.
“It’s an absolute disgrace that a national asset is so neglected and poorly maintained when South Peninsula High (SPH) School is crying out for more space and wants to create a learning centre,” Ms Bew told the Bulletin.
She said holes had been cut in the fence, an outbuilding was strewn with old dirty blankets, clothing and rubbish.
“It had a gagging, disgusting smell of faeces and urine. A garage, which was padlocked, appeared to be living quarters with a bed on the floor,” she said.
“It’s being systematically robbed of anything and everything of value, copper pipes, taps, wiring etc,” said Ms Bew.
She contacted Mr Molehe who told her a security guard would be posted there from Wednesday March 1. “A bit like bolting the stable door after the horse has bolted,” said Ms Bew.
However, Mr Molehe said the process to transfer the property to the provincial government had begun.
In 2015, pupils from SPH marched to Central Primary School making it clear that they wanted to occupy and rehabilitate the abandoned school (“SP says they will cut locks to occupy building,” Bulletin June 4).
In May last year, the province sent a letter to then principal Brian Isaacs stating the school governing body, having taken occupation of the school, needed to take responsibility for maintaining the property.
SPH acting principal Zeid Baker said they were willing to do that but were still waiting for confirmation from the NDPW.
Meanwhile, the building continues to deteriorate.
“Last week, a water pipe burst after being tampered with and a huge hole in the fence was repaired,” he said.
He has been in contact with the provincial government’s directorate of infrastructure and planning and was informed that the NDPW had discussed the matter on Tuesday January 24.
“They were looking at a caretaker agreement with the provincial department and hopefully the school,” he said.
Western Cape Education Department spokeswoman Millicent Merton denied that the school was being left to deteriorate so it could be pulled down to make way for development.
“The national Department of Public Works has indicated that the province can lease the property from them.
“This was put to our Department of Transport and Public Works and they are in the process to liaise a lease agreement,” she said.
Anyone with information about criminal activity at Central Primary School can call Detective Sergeant Arnold Bosch at Diep River Police Station on 021 710 7360.