SCA upholds Western Cape govt decision to close Uitzig High School

2019-03-06 18:21
Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schäfer. (Netwerk24, file)

Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schäfer. (Netwerk24, file)

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The Supreme Court of Appeal last week ruled that the Western Cape Department of Education's (WCED) decision to close Uitzig High School in Ravensmead in 2017 was lawful.

"The order was handed down on the basis that they have no reasonable prospect of success in any appeal, and no reason why an appeal should be heard.

"That same court dismissed a prior application for leave to appeal lodged by the school governing body (SGB) on the basis that the High Court was of the view there was no prospect of another court coming to a different decision," MEC for Education in the Western Cape, Debbie Schafer, said in a statement on Wednesday.

The SCA dismissed the application of Tony Ehrenreich and the applicants with costs.

This comes after the MEC closed the school in 2017 due to low learner numbers, the state of the main building and incidents of vandalism and threats.

ALSO READ: Cape Town's Uitsig High School to close after years of vandalism, theft

This decision was met with arrangements to accommodate affected learners at other schools, according to Schafer.

The SGB wanted the school to stay open and for the department to fix it, after it was repeatedly targeted by vandals and thieves, News24 earlier reported.

"It would be an irrational and irresponsible decision to expend even more finances, which are severely constrained and under constant pressure, to initiate the building of a completely new replacement school at a current cost of around R60m to accommodate 91 learners, when they can be accommodated at other better nearby schools," she explained.

Gang violence in the area near Uitzig also contributed to the MEC's decision-making process.

"I was also assured by officials that a number of learners have moved to other schools and have not experienced any additional gang-related issues or danger in this regard.

"Given the state of Uitzig High School, I believe it would, in fact, be more dangerous for them to stay there," she added.

Schafer described the appeal as a "personal and political attack" on her.

"In my view the refusal to find that an appeal has any merit, by two courts now, gives credence to the view that Tony Ehrenreich’s motives in attacking me over it are both personal and political, and have no regard for what is in the best interests of the affected and future learners," she said.

After a minor court victory in January, where the school was ordered to stay open pending the appeal process, Ehrenreich accused the department of "reneging on their responsibilities of providing functional education" to Uitzig High School pupils.

"There's been a clear disregard for the learners from the department [in closing the school]," Ehrenreich told News24 at the time.

"The community is very happy about the [temporary] ruling," he said. "The department must make their arguments to the SCA and not me. I am irrelevant in this. They must not worry about me because the kids must come first," he added.

The Western Cape Education MEC will be holding discussions with district officials in the area.

Schafer also plans to seek legal advice on proceeding with the closure of the school in "the best interests of the few remaining learners" still in attendance.

Other learners have since been moved to Ravensmead High School which boasts a matric pass rate of 94%.

Read more on:    cape town  |  youth  |  education
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