ANC Youth League slams possible Western Cape school closures

2015-06-19 20:20

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Cape Town - The possibility of over 300 schools closing in the Western Cape due to low pupil numbers has been slammed by the ANC Youth League, who argue that the “heartless” move is made worse because it was announced in Youth Month.

But the Western Cape Education Department countered that education authorities across the country closed over 1 200 schools between 2009 to 2013 in line with national policy on rationalising small and non-viable schools.

The department recently published its strategy for eliminating infrastructure backlogs at schools, outlining its plans to possibly “consolidate” some schools where there are 250 learners or less.

Provincial education department spokesperson Jessica Shelver told News24 that teachers in schools which are much smaller than this inevitably have to teach various grades in the same class.

“We would like to see classes in which all the children are in the same grade. This makes it easier for teachers to cover the whole syllabus for a particular grade, rather than preparing lessons for up to seven grades.

“To do this, the WCED is looking at the possibility of consolidating or merging schools into hubs where possible, to achieve this objective.”

An ‘arbitrary’ resolution

This, she said, is still in planning and could involve some interim discussions with schools as to whether they would be open to such a possibility.

“However, until the minister has indicated her intention to close, there is no cause for alarm, excitement or concern from any school community.

“Each school will be considered on a case by case basis. No final decision has been made as to which schools will be considered for future consolidation, nor has a timeline for the consolidation been finalised.”

But ANCYL provincial chairperson Muhammad Khalid Sayed said in a statement that the department’s move was an “arbitrary” resolution.

Most affected are rural schools

“They clearly state in their document that the decision has been taken already. Learners in poor so-called rural areas now stand to be denied an education.

“It is heartless for the Provincial Government to take such a decision in the month of June where young people commemorate the struggles of the 1976 generation of youth activists who fought for a decent education amongst other basic rights.”

The majority of the affected schools are so-called rural schools in farming areas, Sayed argued.

“If the department goes ahead with these closures then learners residing in small farming areas may sadly be denied access to education as they would need to travel long distances to their nearest towns with unreliable learner transport and the possibility that the schools in the towns may be full.”

But Shelver said no decision to consolidate or merge any schools would be made without consultation with the school community.

“Therefore, based on numerous factors, and following discussions with school communities, the WCED may not recommend the closure of a particular school that falls under 250 learners.

Shelver pointed out that, according to the Department of Basic Education, education authorities across the country closed 1 264 schools between 2009 to 2013.

“The core reasons included declining learner numbers, merging of schools and urbanisation. The same reasons applied in the Western Cape,” she said.

The North West closed the most schools at 261, followed by the Free State’s 223. KwaZulu-Natal closed the fewest schools at 59, followed by the Western Cape with 61.

Read more on:    education department  |  ancyl  |  education

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