Equal Education to march against closure of certain Western Cape schools

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Equal Education (EE) will march against the closure of certain Western Cape schools this Saturday, 15 September 2012, in Cape Town.

Earlier this year the Western Cape Education Department (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. The march has been arranged by the Save Our Schools coalition to rally support for the 27 schools that are facing closure by the WCED.   

EE has contacted all of the 27 schools and gathered information about their unique situations. We believe that some of the planned school closures may be legitimate and necessary; where numbers are dwindling and rationalisation is justified. However, many school closures will have a negative effect on learners’ right to a basic education.

When EE met with the WCED to discuss the closures it raised concerns over the process used to inform schools about closures and the merits of individual closures. The very late date at which the MEC will announce his final decision on school closures gives rise to two problems. Firstly, it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy: many parents pull their children out of schools identified for closure because of the uncertainty of the future which decreases learner number and thus affirms, unjustly, the Department’s motives for closure. Secondly, if schools are finally closed, it places parents in a highly disadvantageous position as to where to send their children because the final announcement will be made only after the WCED’s September 7 2012 school enrolment deadline. The whole process of school closures, including the MEC’s final decision, should have taken place before this deadline.

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 an insufficient and impermissible reason for school closure, more so where the WCED has made inadequate interventions to remedy the situation. 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.

Ensuring effective school management (by both the principal and the School Governing Body) is one of the key focus areas identified under the South African Schools Act for assisting an underperforming school.  Therefore it is particularly troubling that Beauvallon 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 official 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.

The WCED has provided a learner placment plan for learners at schools which face closure. EE has reviewed this plan and contacted the schools that have been identified to absorb learners from closed schools. EE’s research has revealed that there may be problems with the placement schools’ subject choices, language of instruction, capabilities and facilities. Concerns have also been raise about the safety of the transports arrangements the WCED has made for learners. EE will make further details in this regard available upon request. EE will continue to monitor the situation to secure the learners’ rights.

The march will start at 10am at Kaizergracht Street and end at 2pm at the Western Cape Provincial Parliament on Wale Street.

For more information please contact:

Ntshadi Mofokeng (EE Spokesperson) on 079 146 8507

Kate Wilkinson (EE Spokesperson) on 082 326 5353

Lisa Draga (EE Law Centre attorney) on 072 650 0214