Tomorrow, 20 September 2012, Equal Education (EE) will picket the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) over its plans to close three schools on the basis of underperformance. Underperformance is an insufficient and impermissible reason for school closure, more so where the WCED has made inadequate interventions to remedy the situation.
Earlier this year the WCED notified 27 schools that they may face closure by the end of 2012. Public consultations are currently underway and the fate of the schools is yet to be finalised.
In some cases school closures may be legitimate and necessary; however, school closures should not be viewed as a reformative mechanism. EE has been in contact with all of the 27 schools and gathered information about their unique situations. While in some cases closure may be in the best interest of the learners, many school closures will have a negative effect on learners’ right to a basic education.
Three of the 27 schools were identified for closure on the grounds of underperformance: Peak View Secondary School, Beauvallon Secondary School and Zonnebloem Nest Senior School. “Underperformance” is a technical term used by the WCED which connotes a school whose overall National Senior Certificate (NSC) pass rate has fallen below 60%.
The South African Schools Act stipulates that “the Head of Department must take all reasonable steps to assist a school in addressing the underperformance”. From the documents provided to EE by the WCED, it is clear there have been no comprehensive, sustained and targeted interventions implemented by the WCED to improve learner performance at these schools.
The WCED is required under the South African Schools Act to ensure effective school management (by both the principal and the School Governing Body) when assisting an underperforming school. At Beauvallon it has failed in this regard. The school has been made to operate without a permanent appointment to the principal post for over two years. By failing to fill this post, the WCED precluded the possibility of strong and effective leadership which is needed to turn a school around.
In the case of Zonnebloem, the WCED later changed its motivation for closure to exclude underperformance. With a pass rate of 73% in 2010 and 85% in 2011, Zonnebloem, by the WCED’s own classifications, is not an underperforming school. This brings into question the level of research that the WCED conducted to identify schools for possible closure.
There is a heightened obligation on the part of the WCED to do everything in its power to save schools such as Beauvallon, Zonnebloem and Peak View which service underprivileged, disenfranchised and poverty-stricken communities in desperate need of empowerment through education.
Closure of schools for underperformance is of particular concern to EE because many of our members attend underperforming schools. These closures would have very real implications for EE’s membership, and for many learners attending similarly placed schools across the country.
The picket will start at 16h00 outside the WCED on Lower Parliament Street in Cape Town. Picketers will be addressed by Zonnebloem Nest Senior School’s principal Jonty Damsel, EE’s spokesperson Ntuthuzo Ndzomo, and learners.
For more information please contact:
Kate Wilkinson (EE Spokesperson) on 082 326 5353
Adam Sack (Picket Organiser) on 083 794 1111