POSSIBLE SCHOOL CLOSURES – THE PROCESS EXPLAINED

Cathy Labuschagne MPP

DA Western Cape Spokesperson for Education in the Western Cape Provincial Parliament

Today, 24 July 2012 at the Provincial Parliament, the Standing Committee on Education had an opportunity to engage with the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) regarding the process of possible school closures it is currently considering.

As DA spokesperson of Education in the Western Cape I am satisfied that the entire process is following the letter of the law and the spirit in which the law itself was intended. I support Western Cape Minister of Education, Donald Grant, that the entire process is driven by no other motives than to provide quality education for all children in the Western Cape, to create opportunity for them and to improve their life chances. Improving education outcomes in the best interest of the learner has always been the main prerogative of the Department.

I am pleased that Minister Grant is continuously working smarter, working better and working better together to achieve the strategic outcomes in education. The Department made it clear that its’ initial recommendation of possible schools to be closed were informed by a wide array of considerations. The utilization of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) supported by verified information – such as low and dwindling learner enrolment, multi-grade teaching, inadequate or failing infrastructure and suitable alternative schooling options – all forms part of the consideration.

It is important that the facts are known with regards to possible school closures and the discussion with the Department proved necessary to debunk some of the myths and to address unnecessary fears. No decision has been taken as yet to close any of the schools recommended for possible closure. Minister Grant and the WCED are diligently following the laws and policies underpinning any school closures.

The various impacts of any closures are being taken into consideration as well. Learner transport provisions are to be extended where it is necessary. Scenarios where children could possibly be moved from a current no-fee school to a school which does require parents to pay school fees have been considered and are even included into budget considerations for school fee exemptions. Current personnel requirements and the impact on personnel are also considered under the scrutiny of existing labour laws and practices – even the culture of specific schools, such as the language of learning, are carefully considered in the process.

I appreciate the Department’s commitment to provide quality education to all our learners in the province. I thank Minister Grant and the Department for their transparency throughout the process, their willingness to engage with all stakeholders, as well as their careful consideration of all the variables. I urge all parents and vested role-players to make use of the public hearings scheduled between 18 August 2012 and 3 September 2012, to contribute together to inform the best decision for our learners.

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