8 August 2012

South Africa: Education Department Says School Closure Will Benefit Learners

Photo: Albert Gonzalez Farran/UN
The initial number of school closures was 27 and the aim is to improve opportunities for learners by placing them in schools that are better equipped to provide quality education.

If a final decision is taken to close any of the 27 under performing and dilapidated schools in the Western Cape, affected learners would be placed in better resourced schools so as to attain "quality education" said Western Cape Education Department (WCED) head Penny Vinjevold yesterday.

Detailing the learner placement plans yesterday at a packed press conference, Vinjevold said the plans were not final but were proposals to "determine whether to close the schools or not".

In June MEC for Education Donald Grant announced his proposal to shut down 27 under performing schools, of which 20 were situated in rural areas and seven were in the greater Cape Town area.

However Grant's plans infuriated the ANC and Cosatu who vented their anger in a protest outside the provincial legislature in July.

Yesterday, Vinjevold said her department was looking at how best it could use its resources to improve access to quality education on an ongoing basis.

"Most of the 27 schools concerned are very small rural schools that have dwindling numbers and do not have resources to deliver the full curriculum. They typically offer multigrade teaching, with more than one grade in a class," said Vinjevold.

She said should the schools be closed, her department planned to place the learners in schools that offer single grade classes with one teacher per grade and better access to quality facilities and activities.

"The learner placement plans include transport for learners in rural areas. In many cases the learners will find it easier to get to school because buses will pick them up closer to their homes," she said, adding that the learner placement plans would improve opportunities for about 4 000 learners starting from 2013.

WCED deputy director John Lyners said public hearing on the planned school closures would start on August 18 and continue until September 3, with Grant making his final decision following the hearings.

Asked how many affected schools have welcomed the plans to close them, Lyners said he had no idea.

Earlier, Vinjevold said the plans to move the learners have not been budgeted for.

"We have deliberately not costed it.

"Finances haven't been taken into consideration as an over riding factor. We want to give all the children in the province a better education," she said.

WCED head of communications Paddy Atwell said currently 45 schools were being built in the province over the next three years and would accommodate 30 000 learners in rapidly growing areas of the province.

But while the department was justifying its intentions to shut down the schools, a protest was under way in Athlone as parents and the School Governing Body of Peak View Secondary School - which is one the 27 schools earmarked for closure - protested against the proposal.

SGB chair Sean Jacobs said the plan to close the 62-year-old secondary school was racist.

Jacobs said over 200 people joined by learners picketed outside the school premises yesterday morning.

He said the department had no reason to close the school and all 27 affected schools were planning protests against their closure.

Copyright © 2012 West Cape News. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.