School closures in 'children's interest'

2013-06-10 19:45

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Cape Town - The process leading to the decision to close 17 Western Cape schools was procedurally fair, lawyers acting for the provincial education department argued on Monday.

Speaking in the Western Cape High Court, Eduard Fagan, for Education MEC Donald Grant and his department, said the Schools Act did not compel his client to consult affected communities.

The provincial department did, however, give School Governing Bodies (SGBs) an opportunity, during public hearings last year, to make representations to Grant on his intention to close schools.

Fagan argued Grant supplied the schools with sufficient reasons to close the schools before they were asked to make representations.

The Western Cape education department is in agreement with a minority judgment by Judge Dennis Davis last year.

In the minority judgment, Davis said after "anxious reflection" he would only have made an order in the case of two schools.

He found Grant had complied with the Schools Act in allowing representations, and that there was no legal basis for importing the concept "meaningful engagement" into the wording of that section. The act ultimately empowered Grant to make the final decision on school closures, he said.

His two colleagues, Siraj Desai and Elizabeth Baartman did not agree and granted the schools an urgent interdict halting the closures, pending the outcome of a final review process.

This final review process is now underway.

No proper consultation

Earlier on Monday, lawyers acting for the 17 schools, their SGBs and the SA Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu), argued the fact that communities were not properly consulted before Grant made his decision meant the entire process was flawed from the outset.

Advocate Norman Arendse argued schools were merely given a one-line reason for the closures before public hearings were held last year.

This made it impossible for parents, pupils, and teachers to meaningfully discuss the issue and object to the closures during the hearings.

Grant gave full reasons for the closure after he decided to close the schools.

Grant said resources could be more efficiently used if schools where pupil numbers were low, or where there was multi-grade teaching, were closed.

The pupils would then be moved to "receiving schools".

Some parents, teachers, and pupils objected to the move, which led to the court challenge.

Read more on:    sadtu  |  norman arendse  |  dennis davis  |  donald grant  |  cape town  |  education

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