Media alert: Equal Education and Equal Education Law Centre in court tomorrow to challenge the introduction of collaboration schools, donor-funded schools, and intervention facilities by the Western Cape Provincial School Education Amendment Act
Tomorrow, Tuesday 2 November, Equal Education (EE), represented by the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC), will be in the Western Cape High Court to challenge potentially dangerous changes made to Western Cape education law.
The Western Cape Provincial School Education Amendment Act of 2018 (the Amendment Act), has made major changes to the Western Cape education law, making it possible for two new types of schools to be established – collaboration and donor-funded schools. These schools give donors and private entities significant control of public schools in a way that undermines the principles of democratic governance and accountability. The Amendment Act has also made possible the establishment of intervention facilities for learners found guilty of serious misconduct. Learners sent to intervention facilities can be separated from their family and community for up to a year.
We are challenging the introduction of these three institutions because the law around them is vague, inconsistent with the Constitution and in conflict with the South African Schools Act (SASA).
While EE is not opposed to testing innovative education models, we recognise that experimentation in education is a very sensitive undertaking – it involves the lives and futures of learners. So, it should not be contentious that EE wants to ensure that these three institutions do not operate in breach of existing education laws.
EE first raised concerns around this in 2016, when the proposed changes were published in the Western Cape Provincial School Education School Amendment Bill. When the Bill was considered by the Western Cape Provincial Parliament, we made written and oral submissions to the Standing Committee on Education and continuously called on the Western Cape Education Department to abandon the draft legislation. However, despite our inputs and concerns the Bill was passed resulting in the Western Cape Provincial School Education Amendment Act of 2018.
As a last resort, we have now taken legal action against the Western Cape Education MEC, Western Cape Premier, the Minister of Basic Education and the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services.
According to the WCED, collaboration schools and donor-funded schools are a necessary way to get private funding into schools that are underperforming and under-resourced. This private funding however comes with conditions attached to it, conditions which negatively and fundamentally change the grassroots governance powers within public schools.
A collaboration school is a partnership between the WCED, an NGO (referred to as a school operating partner) and a donor. The school operating partners may have voting rights on the school governing body (SGB) and may make up 50% of the SGB.
With donor-funded schools, there is no school operating partner. The donor, who makes a donation to the school, is given voting rights on the SGB. The MEC may give a donor more than 50% – and up to 100% – of the voting positions on an SGB. In these schools, private entities can essentially “buy” decision-making power on school governing bodies, regardless of their education expertise.
The Amendment Act has made it possible for learners found guilty of serious misconduct to be sent to intervention facilities by the WCED’s Head of Department (HOD). These learners may be removed from the formal education system, and from their family and community, and placed in this disciplinary institution where they may live for up to 12 months. There, learners will be given counselling and be subject to so-called “intervention strategies” to deal with their behaviour. This is a very drastic measure that fails to consider the potential range of factors that can contribute to behavioural difficulties. Those factors can include the school environment, as well as home and community circumstances. The process of referring a child to an intervention facility not only fails to consider the voice of the learner in a situation that severely limits their rights but ignores court processes already in place to protect learners in situations such as these.
EE is asking the court to:
- Declare that the introduction of collaboration schools, donor-funded schools and intervention facilities clashes with the Constitution.
- Declare that collaboration schools, donor-funded schools, and intervention facilities clash with the South African Schools Act.
- Declare collaboration schools, donor-funded schools, and intervention facilities unlawful.
When: Wednesday 2 November and Thursday 3 November 2022
Where: The Western Cape High Court, Keerom Street, Cape Town
To arrange an interview, contact Jay-Dee Cyster (EE Communications Officer) firstname.lastname@example.org 082 924 1352