Today Western Cape MEC Donald Grant announced that out of 27 schools identified for closure earlier this year, 20 will close and 7 will be kept open.
EE, supported by the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC), has been at the forefront of serious efforts aimed at keeping schools open. Serious research, mobilisation, creative campaigning, preparation of legal action, and careful engagement with the WCED have all been carried out by EE with determination, dedication and discipline.
Two school closures which we felt were particularly unjust – Zonnebloem and Peak View –, and around which we campaigned hardest, have both been reversed. This is undoubtedly due in part to the work of EE and the EELC.
In addition, it is due to the efforts of numerous organisations and individuals, not least the learners and teachers of Peakview and Zonnebloem. We thank those, including the Save Our Schools Coalition, who have worked hard to make the provincial government, at least partially, do the right thing.
EE has been campaigning since June 2012 against the closure of certain Western Cape schools. Over the last five months EE has engaged with the WCED on numerous occasions.
On 12 June EE sent a letter to the MEC requesting a meeting to discuss the potential closure of the 27 schools. A follow up letter was sent on 22 June. EE also launched a request for information relating to the possible closure of the schools. After our request was denied EE launched an internal appeal under the Promotion of Access to Information Act. Following the appeal the WCED agreed to provide the information.
In-depth research was also conducted into the situation at each of the 27 schools and the placement schools identified by the WCED. On 24 August, EE met with the WCED Head of Department, Penny Vinjevold. At this meeting EE raised its concerns regarding the schools that were being considered for closure on the basis of poor performance. It also highlighted problems with the WCED’s placement plan.
During the public consultations EE members attended the public hearings held at the schools. On 15 September, EE participated in a march in Cape Town to highlight its opposition to certain school closures. On 20 September, EE picketed outside the WCED against the closure of schools on the basis of underperformance and handed a memorandum to Ms Penny Vinjevold.
EE and the EELC are gratefull to Andrew Breitenbach SC and Thabani Masuku for their assistance.
EE is pleased by MEC Grant’s decision to keep Zonnebloem NEST Senior School and Peak View Secondary School open. One of the reasons for Zonnebloem’s possible closure was the poor state of the school’s infrastructure. It is promising that the MEC has indicated that he will engage with the private owner of the land on which the school is located regarding renovating the school.
EE had argued that the WCED should not close Zonnebloem because of the special programmes it offers. The school is one of only a few in the Cape Town area that offers Design and Dance as subjects. It was, and now will continue to be, a beacon of hope for underprivileged learners interested in the Arts.
EE had brought to the WCED’s attention that Peak View has tried to rectify its poor learner performance by introducing isiXhosa Home Language. EE is pleased to see that the WCED will allow the school to remain open giving learners the opportunity to succeed by studying in their home language. The WCED has acknowledged that this change must be given time to take effect.
EE commits to working together with Zonnebloem and Peak View to ensure that learner numbers, retention rates, infrastructure and learning conditions are improved. We also commit ourselves to monitoring progress made. These schools must take seriously the measures implemented by the WCED to improve these schools’ learning outcomes.
The WCED’s policy for rural schools is that transport will only be provided for learners to travel to a new school if it is in excess of a 5km radius. When EE met with the WCED it raised a concern that transport arrangements would not be made for learners at Denneprag because the placement school, Ruiterbos, is 4.8km away (this falls outside of WCED’s ambit for transport provision). It was also a concern because the route to the new placement school was too dangerous for learners to walk.
EE is pleased to note that after raising this concern MEC Grant has committed to providing transport to Denneprag’s learners.
MEC Grant announced that Lavisrylaan Primary school will be closed. The placement school which the WCED has identified, Helderberg Primary, is an Afrikaans medium school. EE is concerned that MEC Grant made no mention of making provision for the majority of learners at Lavisrylaan Primary who take English as a home language.
EE will monitor the situation to ensure that these leaners’ language needs are accommodated.
EE is saddened that MEC Grant has decided to close Beauvallon Secondary School. We will however work closely with the acting principal of Beauvallon and the School Governing Body to ensure that learners’ needs and interests are properly accommodated by the WECD. EE will monitor the situation to ensure that the WCED’s promise of an improved, safer learning environment at John Ramsay High School is followed through.
We still think the process was problematic in that the announcement was made after the deadline for 2013 registrations and after the WCED's own guidline's date. This should not happen again.
It is the right of all children to receive a quality education. We will continue to work to ensure this, hand in hand with communities, government, learners and schools.
Yoliswa Dwane (EE Chairperson) on 072 342 7747
Lisa Draga (EE Law Centre Attorney) on 072 650 0214
Kate Wilkinson (Media officer) on 082 326 5353