Western Cape education department to finally close high school

Cape Town – Uitzig High School in Elsies River, Cape Town, will be closed by the Western Cape education department at the end of 2017 following months of legal action preventing the school's closure. 

Uitzig High School's governing body previously came to an agreement with the provincial department to suspend legal action in relation to closing the school.

In March the department said the action was suspended until a formal process required to close the school had been completed. It said the governing body could make submissions on why the school should not be closed.

READ: Parents suspend legal action over Uitzig High School closure

On Wednesday, provincial education MEC Debbie Schäfer said it would be financially irresponsible to repair a high school with 94 pupils. 

She said the department had already spent R453 517 on emergency repairs due to continued vandalism of the school and an additional R2 699 298 on mobile classrooms.

"It is within this budgetary, historical and social context that I needed to consider the appropriateness of building a new school at Uitzig to accommodate less than 100 learners. I concluded it was not," Schäfer said in a statement. 

"I also have to consider the safety of these learners and educators in an environment which is clearly not safe - both in its physical infrastructure and from outside perpetrators."

Schäfer said the school's current 94 pupils would preferably be moved to Ravensmead High School which is a kilometre away and has a 98.2% matric pass rate. The pupils can also choose to attend St Andrew's Secondary School or Florida High school which are both within 4km of Uitzig High School. 

Gang war threat

All of the 94 pupils will remain exempt from paying school fees for the remainder of their high school years, irrespective of which of the three schools they choose to go to, Schäfer said. 

The Western Cape ANC, however, said the school's closure will force pupils to cross the territorial boundaries of rival gangs to go to other schools. 

"The threat of gang wars is real as scores of innocent children are killed in or around schools," ANC Western Cape education spokesperson Theo Olivier said in a statement. 

"Further to that the social fabric of the area is put under pressure [as] even families can be broken up as their kids may be sent to different schools in other areas.

"The ANC says stop this ill-considered closure and rather work on a real plan to secure, repair and replace the Uitzig plankie (wooden structure) school."

In 2012, the Western Cape education department wanted to close 17 schools with apparent low enrolment numbers and multi-grade classes. 

However, in 2013 the Western Cape High Court set aside the closures by then education MEC Donald Grant. It ruled that the reasons given for the closures were brief and that the public consultation process that followed was inadequate.

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