By Minister Debbie Schäfer, Western Cape Minister of Education:
Early last week, it became apparent that certain members of the Eerste Rivier Community were opposed to the Western Cape Education Departments (WCED) plan to relocate learners temporarily from Scottsdene Secondary School to the vacant Eerste Rivier Primary School building for the course of the third term.
In terms of this plan, the learners were to have moved to Eerste Rivier while contractors installed mobile classrooms at Scottsdene Secondary School for occupation during the fourth term.
WCED senior officials held various meetings, which included community meetings and consultations with the interim School Governing Body, in order to discuss the planned temporary relocation of learners.
The WCED explained to these community members that this was a temporary arrangement for the duration of the 3rd term and that other options for schooling had been investigated but are not viable at this stage.
I also invited members of the interim SGB to meet with me to discuss the planned relocation and how it would greatly benefit learners from Scottsdene. They rejected this offer.
The members of the community stated that they did not want learners from Scottsdene Secondary School to occupy the new school building for various reasons.
The WCED assured the community members that this was a temporary situation for only a part of the 3rd term and that the WCED would ensure that the school building would be as ‘good as new’ well ahead of learners entering the school premises at the start of the 2016 academic year.
Despite these assurances, it is clear that some community members in Eerste Rivier are vehemently opposed to this move and further consultations will not result in a positive outcome.
Some community members have allegedly vowed to block roads and stage protests so that the Scottsdene learners could not access the school.
A member of the community also emailed a media house stating that ‘all hell would break loose if the move was carried out’.
Given these threats and in the interest of learner and educator safety, our officials have moved rapidly to arrange alternative accommodation. The WCED will accommodate Grades 8 to 10 in a community hall in Scottsdene while learners in Grades 11and 12 will share nine existing prefabricated classrooms at Scottsdene Secondary School.
Public Works has undertaken to fast-track the installation of mobile classrooms at Scottsdene Secondary School, starting with 12 classrooms on the school’s parking lot this week.
Meanwhile, contractors have started civil works on the school’s sports fields to accommodate a further 14 mobile classrooms. Public Works expects that it will take about three weeks to install these 14 classrooms.
The WCED will work with the school to provide a catch-up programme during the September holiday.
I am disheartened at how some of these community members have opposed this temporary measure in such an uncaring manner, given that the school building is standing vacant and it is for the benefit of young learners in the Western Cape.
Given the circumstances the WCED and the school community of Scottsdene Secondary School find themselves in, it was my hope that the community members of Eerste Rivier would, in the interest of education, welcome learners from Scottsdene to the school.
It is therefore very disappointing that specific individuals are depriving the Scottsdene learners of this opportunity.