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07 Aug 2012 16:16
Hundreds of Western Cape pupils face the prospect of their schools being closed. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)
"The aim is to improve opportunities for the learners concerned. We would like to place these learners in schools that are better equipped to provide a quality education," department head Penny Vinjevold told reporters in Cape Town.
She said the 20 rural and seven urban schools facing possible closure were not ideal places of learning.
The rural schools were faced largely with dwindling pupil numbers and teachers having to accommodate up to seven different grades in a single classroom.
The urban schools were plagued by a high dropout rate, poor academic performance, or buildings in poor condition.
There were 11 possible closures in the Eden Karoo, six in the Cape Winelands, five in Cape Town central, three on the West Coast and two in Cape Town north.
In Eden Karoo, enrolment ranged from 11 to 101 pupils.
Vinjevold said primary schools should ideally have between 650 and 800 pupils, and high schools between 1 000 and 1 200 pupils.
She said the problem was that schools with low numbers received less funding, even though their water, electricity and municipal rates were the same.
The proposal to close schools was met with opposition by various communities, the ANC and Congress of South African Trade Unions.
The department was criticised for targeting certain races and for a lack of transparency.
Vinjevold provided reporters with a detailed breakdown of why each school had been chosen and where pupils could be transferred if the process went ahead.
About 4 000 pupils would be placed in different schools from 2013 if the proposal was approved.
The proposed placements were a work in progress and had been compiled to reassure parents that the department had done its research.
Any person, community, organisation or civil movement could offer their input at public hearings to be held from August 18 to September 3.
Grant was expected to make a final decision by the end of September.
Vinjevold said parents should not worry about their child being placed in a school they could not afford.
"We've tried to match no-fee schools with no-fee schools," she said.
In instances where a child was placed in a school with fees, an exemption policy would apply.
For rural areas, proposed transfer schools were between six kilometres and 27km from the original school.
"In many cases, the learners will find it easier to get to school because buses will pick them up closer to their homes," Vinjevold said.
Teachers would typically follow pupils to their new schools. – Sapa
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