12 February 2024
Media alert: Equal Education and Equal Education Law Centre return to court seeking leave to appeal the judgment in the collaboration schools matter
Tomorrow, 13 February 2024, Equal Education (EE) and the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) will be in the Western Cape High Court to seek permission to appeal the judgment handed down in the Western Cape Provincial Schools Education Amendment Act (collaboration schools) matter on 17 July 2023. After carefully studying the judgment, we have resolved to challenge the outcome in the interest of learners and school communities, to protect education as a public good, and to uphold the democratic nature of school governance.
EE, represented by the EELC, first brought the case in 2019, challenging specific provisions in the Western Cape Provincial Schools Education Amendment Act 4 of 2018 (Amendment Act) that introduced three institutions—collaboration schools, donor-funded schools and intervention facilities for learners found guilty of serious misconduct—into the provincial education system. Although the court did not find in our favour, we still believe the law around these institutions is vague, inconsistent with the Constitution, and in conflict with the South African Schools Act (SASA).
Concerning collaboration and donor-funded schools, one of our main concerns and arguments relates to the governance models for these new types of schools that essentially rob parents of their voting rights on school governing bodies (SGB). We are concerned that handing over up to half (50%) of voting rights on an SGB to private actors under contract with the Western Cape Education Department undermines section 23(9) of the South African Schools Act, which states that parents must make up the majority of members on SGBs (“parental majority rule”). The Amendment Act fails to safeguard this provision. Instead, it prioritises the voices of private actors, potentially diluting the voices, knowledge and experience of those parents, teachers and community members who have a vested interest in the operations of their schools.
About the establishment of intervention facilities, we are concerned about the harsh nature of removing a learner from the formal education system, and potentially from their family and community, for up to a full calendar year. Although these facilities will provide so-called “therapeutic programmes” and intervention strategies to address the serious misconduct, the Amendment Act fails to take into account a range of factors that can contribute to behavioural difficulties seen in learners, including the environment at the school, as well as home and community circumstances. Efforts to address behavioural issues in children must be holistic without compromising their well-being and best interests. In-school interventions should be prioritised in addressing learner misconduct instead of removing a learner from their family or community environment.
We are confident that there are compelling reasons for an appeal. Most importantly, our application raises pertinent questions regarding the permissible extent of provincial regulation of basic education, the involvement of private actors in the governance of public schools, and the use of “novel” disciplinary measures arising from learners’ misconduct.
To arrange a media interview, contact:
Sesethu August (Equal Education Communications Officer) email@example.com
WhatsApp: 083 890 8723
Call: 063 221 7983