On Wednesday, 20 June 21012, Brad Brockman, representing Equal Education (EE), spoke at a press briefing held in Bellville, Western Cape. The Western Cape leadership of the South African Democratic Teachers Union, the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the African National Congress hosted the briefing to address the proposed closure of 27 public schools in the Western Cape. Community members, School Governing Body representatives, principals from the 27 schools and EE members also attended.
Earlier this month, Western Cape Education MEC Donald Grant informed the schools of his intention to close them at the end of the year. Reasons cited include schools having low enrolment numbers, underperformance and the majority of learners living outside of the local community. Concerns were raised by schools, parents, trade unions, NGOs and faith based organisations over the process used to reach the decisions to close the schools and the impact the closures would have on communities, learners and teachers.
An objective, transparent and legitimate process was not employed by the Western Cape Department of Education (WCED). The WCED is not alone in its failure to develop a thorough process for school closure. EE calls on the National Department of Basic Education, as well as all provincial education departments, to engage in developing a transparent policy. School closure should be a last resort after other interventions and alternatives have been explored. Representatives at the press briefing said that they would oppose any school closures until an acceptable policy had been developed.
Brockman, EE’s representative, highlighted that closure was not an acceptable or effective solution to deal with underperformance. “A complex set of factors contributes to learner underperformance in schools. These include the environment in schools and communities, learners’ language of instruction, the amount of support teachers receive and the influence of gangsterism,” said Brockman. Furthermore, underperformance is not particular to the schools which are facing closure - it is a national problem. EE does not support school closure as a reformative mechanism.
A worrying reason given for closure of some schools is that the majority of learners do not live in the local community. South Africa’s history of racial inequality and separate development must not be perpetuated. Schools must be integrated and past injustices, such as the Group Areas Act, must not continue to define the opportunities and resources that South Africans are able to access.
EE will continue to engage with the 27 schools, community members and the WCED. Closing schools will not solve the education problems in the country. In cases which school closure is considered, it must be reached after a transparent and fair process that includes meaningful engagement with communities and those affected.
For more information please contact Brad Brockman on 072 267 8489 or Yoliswa Dwane on 072 342 7747