310 Schools Closed in Eastern Cape

Edmund Van Vuuren MPL DA Eastern Cape Shadow MEC for Education Today the DA visited Ilungelo Public School in Kwazakhele, Port Elizabeth, one of the 310 schools gazetted for closure this year by the Eastern Cape government. Less than a tenth of this number of schools were closed in the Western Cape, but for very different reasons. Where the DA governs, we focus on quality education with a goal of zero under-performing schools by 2014. Hypocritically, the ANC has attacked us for relocating learners to better schools in a small number of cases where it is the best and only option for a good education. Where the ANC governs, it runs so many schools into the ground that parents shut these dysfunctional and dangerous spaces down themselves. Ilungelo Public school is an example of the rot in Eastern Cape education behind many of the 310 school closures. Parents unofficially closed the school down 3 years ago. Parents informed the DA they closed the school because the principal abused alcohol and teachers did as they pleased. No learning took place and the children were found roaming around in the streets during school hours. The school was in fact run into the ground by the Eastern Cape Education Department’s total neglect of learners. Despite the great need for a school in the area, parents were left with no choice but to send their children to schools in other areas. Ilungelo school now stands empty with its windows and doors stolen as the Department moves to officially close it. Two months ago the school structure was vandalised and bricks stolen. The school building is a hot-spot for criminal activities, where women are being raped and where murdered people’s bodies are found, the community tells us. The tragic collapse of Ilungelo school would never have happened under a DA government. Not only will there be no under-performing schools in the DA-led Western Cape by 2014, we will also have built 26 new and 46 replacement schools in the next 3 years. Closing a school is a last resort to guarantee a better education for learners, not because a perfectly good school has been run into the ground. The DA understands that unviable schools where learner-numbers have dwindled remain a challenge and that sometimes, in the interest of education, it is better for learners to be relocated to other schools. The DA is in principle not against the closure of old mud schools and farms schools where the infrastructure has become safety and health hazards. We recognise the need to find better education for learners in certain cases, but there is a big difference between finding better education for learners and running perfectly good schools like Ilungelo into the ground to the extent that they have to be closed. The DA will pose questions to Education MEC Mandla Makhupula about the reasons behind the 310 Eastern Cape schools closures, and why the Department has left so many good schools to fall to ruins.

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