Schools merged despite communities’ wishes

James Masango MPL

Provincial Chief Whip of the Official Opposition

Education MEC Reginah Mhaule must explain why all stakeholders were not consulted when the decision to merge of the Sakhe and Vulingqondo primary schools in Thembisile Hani municipality was taken.

It has come to light that the parents, the school governing body and the community were opposed to the closure of Vulingqondo and moving learners to Sakhe, and requested the Department of Education to recruit more learners to both schools.

However, the decision was taken during a stakeholders’ meeting hosted by Nkangala District mayor Cllr Speedy Mashilo on January 22, to which local ward councillors (Wards 9 and 10), the two ANC branches (Wards 9 and 10), teachers unions, the cluster coordinator and the tribal authority were invited. It has subsequently emerged that parents and community members who tried to attend the meeting were refused entry.

What the DA fails to understand is why the meeting was facilitated by the district municipality, and why ANC branches were invited to attend? The South African Schools Act demands that schools be apolitical and remain under the jurisdiction of the provincial education department and the MEC – not local government, and less so the ANC.

The entire merger process was fundamentally flawed and should either be cancelled, or at least be put on hold until such time that a proper, transparent consultative process has taken place, with at very least both schools’ governing bodies, parents, community members and teachers’ unions, and must exclude the ANC and municipal officials.

The DA will submit written questions to MEC Mhaule asking her to explain the process of schools closure and/or mergers, whether the procedures were followed in this instance, and to provide records of consultative meetings. MEC Mhaule will also be asked to explain the reasoning behind the presence of the ANC and the district municipality, and whether, in her view, it was legally justified.

School closures are a highly sensitive issue and should be managed in a caring and compassionate way. Learners and parents should be fully consulted in a dignified manner before any decisions are made, and not simply be dictated to. The fact that they were refused access or to give their inputs, speaks of an abuse of power that has no place in our democracy.

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