18 January 2019

South Africa: Western Cape MEC, Tony Ehrenreich in War of Words Over Uitzig High's Reopening

Former Western Cape Cosatu secretary Tony Ehrenreich and the Western Cape education department have exchanged barbs over the temporary reopening of Uitzig High School in Ravensmead.

Ehrenreich on Friday accused the department of "reneging on their responsibilities of providing functional education" to Uitzig High School pupils.

This after Western Cape education MEC Debbie Schafer on Thursday accused Ehrenreich of using the school's closure as well as parents and pupils as political pawns to stay relevant.

The Western Cape High Court ruled in favour of the pupils on Wednesday, granting the school an interim order to remain open - but only until the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) makes a decision on its permanent closure.

The department had closed the school in 2017, citing issues of vandalism, gang violence, and declining pupil numbers and pass rates. The matric pass rate was 15.4% before its closure.

"There's been a clear disregard for the learners from the department [in closing the school]," Ehrenreich told News24 in response to Schafer's accusations.

"The community is very happy about the ruling," he said. "The department must make their arguments to the SCA and not me. I am irrelevant in this. They must not worry about me because the kids must come first," he added.

Ehrenreich confirmed on Friday that classes had resumed at the school.

On Thursday, Schafer said the interim order was a victory for Ehrenreich only, not the pupils.

"The Western Cape High Court has already ruled that my decision to close the school in 2017 was valid and in the best interests of the learners.

"Indeed, that same court dismissed the application for leave to appeal on the basis that there is no prospect of another court coming to a different decision."

She said the court's decisions had "forced" Ehrenreich and the applicants to petition the SCA for leave to appeal, which is still pending.

Schafer said that as a result of the court's decision, three teachers will have to teach 100 pupils in five different grades.

With less than 100 pupils, the school only qualifies for three teaching posts.

"While I am quite sure that some persons and some politically aligned media may well still choose to make various statements of outrage regarding my decision to close the school, and claim victory for the learners, I stand by my decision and I am confident that it was the right one, and in the best interest of the learners."

Schafer said she was seeking legal advice on the interim court order.

Source: News24

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