Cape Town dad protests outside school that denied his a daughter a place

2019-02-04 14:50
Western Cape Education Department headquarters. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)

Western Cape Education Department headquarters. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)

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A frustrated Cape Town parent has vowed to continue his one-man stand against a local high school and the Western Cape Department of Education.

The man held a protest outside Pinelands High School on Friday, as he believes his daughter was denied a place there because of "a fractured past relationship" he has with the school.

Garth Lucas claims the relationship became fractured after he opened a business in 2014 and was left in a financial bind that resulted in him not being able to pay school fees for a year.

Lucas says he has exhausted all possible avenues to try get his child into Pinelands High, but to no avail.

He believes that his daughter meets all the requirements for placement at the school.

"The admission policy and process was not administered fairly and the entire process was discriminant [sic] and unfair towards my daughter.

"I believe that this is so based on a fractured past relationship that I have had with the school," Lucas told News24.

He said his daughter had attended Pinelands North Primary in 2018, and that he had one child who had matriculated from Pinelands High in 2015 and another who was currently in matric at Pinelands High.

"I live in Thornton, 3.6km from the school; my wife works in Pinelands and I work in Epping, 4.7km from the school," he explained.

After Lucas was unsuccessful in his attempts with the school's management, he lodged an appeal with Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schaefer in June 2018.

Appeal dismissed for several reasons

The department confirmed that Schaefer had received the appeal and, after careful consideration, had dismissed it for several reasons.

Officials say the school received more than 700 applications, but only had place for 188 students per grade. This was later extended to 195 learners, due to the number of applications.

There were 26 learners on the waiting list. Lucas's daughter was 12th on the list, the department said. It added that Pinelands High School was, in fact, not the closest school to the learner's residence.

Following the department's dismissal in October 2018, Lucas contacted the Presidency and the Department of Basic Education for assistance.

"I received notification from basic education that they cannot overturn a decision made by the MEC, who subsequently upheld the decision made by the school," he said.

Lucas then sent a request for access to information through an attorney on December 18, 2018, but this also failed.

"I, in principle, do not have and would not take issue if indeed my daughter's application was unsuccessful based on merit. I have requested from the school, the governing body and the education department the methodology or formula used, to no avail," he said.

Proximity to school no guarantee of placement

However, Lucas believes the decision was not made on merit and that it was, therefore, an injustice to his child.

"My question is simple, what was the process?

"If this malevolent behaviour is not brought to light, if the school and all involved are not held accountable for this transgression, there is no telling what other unjust practices they will be allowed institute," he said.

His 13-year-old daughter has not been placed in a school yet.

The Western Cape Department of Education told News24 that the school governing body was responsible for the admissions policy at Pinelands High School - not the department.

It also said that proximity to a school did not always guarantee that a child would be placed.

"Living 50m from a school or 50km cannot guarantee placement.

"Some schools receive five times the number of applications than the places they have available. Therefore, they cannot satisfy the needs of everyone who applies," the department added. 

Pinelands High School management directed all News24's queries to the department.

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