Seven Western Cape schools spared closure

"This is a bitter-sweet victory for us that the department decided to keep seven of the 27 schools open," Save Our Schools campaign organiser Magnus de Jongh told the Mail & Guardian on Tuesday.

"But we want all the schools to remain open so we are taking the matter to court."

The department announced its proposal earlier this year to close the 27 schools citing dwindling pupil numbers and underperformance, among other reasons. But on Tuesday it announced the following schools would remain open: Peak View Secondary School, Zonnebloem Nest Senior School, Wittedrif Primary School, Rodewal UCC Primary School, Nuhoop NGK Primary School, Bosplaas NGK Primary School and Athwood Primary School. These schools would receive "targeted support" to improve the "education outcomes … and the lives of [its] learners", said the department.

But the Save Our Schools Campaign – supported by trade union federation Cosatu, the ANC in the province, religious forums and taxi associations – said Western Cape education minister Donald Grant's decision was "ill-informed".

"We are going to court in the interest of our kids and their safety. You can't close schools, for example, in areas riddled with gang-violence because kids will become a target for rival gangmembers when they walk to their new school."

He said pupils having to use "unreliable" and "unsafe" department-provided learner transport also put them at risk.

But in a firm statement to the M&G, Grant's spokesperson Bronagh Casey said it was "simply not true to accuse the minister for not applying his mind to all representations. This has been a long and comprehensive process that has followed due procedure" and was aimed at improving the lives of over 4 000 learners in the province.

Grant even went "beyond the prescribed public participation process and issued a public call to every pupil, parent, teacher and community member who had an opinion on the possible school closures to share these with him", she said.

"Some very powerful arguments were heard both for and against the closure of particular schools … For example, the issue of learner safety was raised in the case of some schools, [which] is an issue this government takes seriously and which has ultimately influenced the minister's decision with regard to the closure of particular schools".

Nongovernmental organisation Equal Education Law Centre welcomed the minister's announcement.

"We've been working on this issue for the past five months and we are very pleased by the minister's decision not to close Zonnebloem and Peak View because of underperformance," attorney at the centre Lisa Draga told the M&G.

"We welcome the approach to instead go into the schools and address the deficits that teachers and learners are struggling with."

Although school closures were necessary in some cases, Draga said, using underperformance as a reason was not acceptable. She said the department was obliged to rather address the causes of problems at schools, such as poor facilities and under-performance, before resorting to closure.

The organisation picketed outside the department's office on September 20 appealing for Peak View, Beauvallon and Zonnebloem schools to remain open and that the department "ensures that substantive, sustained interventions are made to improve learner performance at these schools".

PW Botha wagged his finger and banned us in 1988 but we stood firm. We built a reputation for fearless journalism, then, and now. Through these last 35 years, the Mail & Guardian has always been on the right side of history.

These days, we are on the trail of the merry band of corporates and politicians robbing South Africa of its own potential.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertisting

LIVESTREAM: Ramaphosa addresses a locked down nation

President Cyril Ramaphosa is scheduled to address the nation on the measures currently being undertaken to contain the coronavirus pandemic

The rule of law in times of crisis: Covid-19 and...

Under a state of national disaster, some rights may be suspended. But it is critical to remember that the Constitution itself is not suspended

Test backlog skews SA’s corona stats

With thousands of samples still waiting to be processed, labs are racing to ramp up testing to help the government gain a better idea of how prevalent Covid-19 really is

Press Releases

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders

Dimension Data launches Saturday School in PE

The Gauteng Saturday School has produced a number of success stories