By Minister Debbie Schäfer, Western Cape Minister of Education:
During the July holiday period, a group of parents wrote to the WCED informing the department that they planned to take over empty mobile classrooms on a field in Dunoon.
The WCED had leased the site temporarily from the City to accommodate learners while completing a replacement school next door. The temporary site had been recently vacated due to the completion of the new school.
The parents provided a list of names of learners allegedly seeking placement in the Dunoon area. Our District Officials verified the list of names and found that it was largely an out-dated waiting list for Sophakama Primary, compiled in 2013. A few days later, the community members and the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) approached the department with another list of names. The WCED committed itself to verifying the names to see who was in need of placement.
Since then, several lists of names have been provided to the WCED which we have needed to verify each time. This delayed the verification process. In addition, the EELC also prevented the department from interviewing parents directly which made it difficult to identify genuine cases and needlessly delayed the process even further.
Equal Education originally claimed to have lists of around 484 learners’ names seeking placement.
On the 23rd July 2015, Equal Education then provided the WCED with another list with some 760 learner’s names allegedly seeking placement.
Officials found that 134 of the learners are already registered in school, while 30 have exited the system. Learners normally exit the system when their parents move to another province.
Our officials and the EELC representatives agreed that the 134 learners already in school should return to their schools. We have received no explanation as to why they left their existing schools to invade another.
It soon became apparent from the verification process that many of the learners on the lists provided were already enrolled at schools in Du Noon or were only due to begin Grade R and Grade 1 next year.
The WCED therefore invited parents who invaded the Dunoon site during the July holiday, to register their children and ran two registration drives at the site, on Wednesday 12th August and on Saturday 15th August 2015.
Parents were requested to bring their children physically for registration, together with documentary evidence of the dates of birth and previous school report, so that officials can place them in the correct grades.
The result of the registration drive confirmed that the numbers of unregistered learners were far lower than had been indicated.
Of the 700 children claimed to not be in school, the WCED found that 119 children who came for registering were of compulsory school-going age needed to be registered and accommodated.
A total of 58.8% are new arrivals from the Eastern Cape (70 of 119). The remaining 41.2%, (49 of 119) had either dropped out of the system or had never enrolled in a school and were therefore not on our system.
Schools register learners on our Central Education Management Information System (CEMIS) and the School Admission Management System (SAMI), which we use to track all learners attending school in the Western Cape.
There is no record of the majority of the learners ever enrolling or attempting to enrol at a school in the Western Cape. If the parents had tried to enrol their child, the learners details would have been recorded on our CEMIS or SAMI systems and our officials would have been able to place the learners as quickly as possible.
The 119 learners will be accommodated as follows:
- 53 of these learners will be enrolled in Grade 1 in the 2015 academic year
- 60 learners in Grades 1 – 5 will be accommodated at the Dunoon site in the prefabricated, purpose built classrooms under the management of the Sophakama Primary School Management Team
- 6 learners in Grades 6 and 7 learners will be accommodated at Sophokama PS – which is next door to the site
Furniture and textbooks for the above learners were delivered to the school today and we hope to have teaching and learning up and running this week.
The WCED has asked the City to extend the lease of the temporary Du Noon site which will be managed by the Sophakama Primary School Management Team.
The situation in Du Noon has been frustrating for the Department. The invasion of the land was unnecessary and the delays caused by out-dated and bogus lists have not helped to speed up the process. All the parents needed to do was to approach the district office in good faith and ask for assistance.
Today our officials were at Sophakama Primary School to receive the 119 learners. They did not arrive at the school as agreed and instead an estimated 40 learners again went to the mobile site.
I am now concerned that our attempts to get teaching and learning up and running as soon as possible will be further delayed.
It came to my attention this morning that certain individuals are allegedly unhappy with the Dunoon site being managed by the Sophakama Primary School Management Team, citing their opposition to the Principal of Sophokama managing the new school as their reason.
The community members that have allegedly been teaching the learners at the site have also insisted that the WCED employ them to teach at the new school.
The WCED has allocated 4 new teaching posts to Sophokama PS and due process will be followed.
Should the ‘volunteer teachers’ wish to apply for these teaching posts; they too will need to follow due process.
In addition, the community has proposed that the temporary school operate as a satellite of Du Noon Primary School.
Due to the small number of learners, and because the site is immediately adjacent to Sophakama PS, these classrooms will be under the management of the principal of Sophakama PS, who together with its SGB, will deal with all managerial and administrative matters.
All the necessary logistical matters, such as furniture and teaching materials, will be facilitated by the district office. The WCED has taken this decision in the BEST interests of our learners and of education. I urge the parents to work with us to achieve this.
We will not allow individuals to place undue demands on our officials who have years of experience in the management of such matters.
The events around this case in Dunoon have just highlighted once again the challenges that we face as a Department when dealing with new arrivals in our Province. These challenges are made even greater by the concentrated areas into which learners migrate at short notice, and the ever-increasing budgetary constraints.
Our commitment is and will be to provide the best quality education we possibly can to all learners in Western Cape schools.