But the schools ought to be closed

2012-07-19 21:09

Since the Western Cape Education Department announced It's intention to close 27 schools, many have reacted to this announcement without looking at the facts. It's always good to find out more before formulating an opinion on any issue, remember that politicians enjoy throwing words around to provoke outrage and so do journalists.

It is very surprising that the ANC in the Western Cape also reacted with outrage when they (ANC WC) had also closed schools when they governed the Cape; other schools were left opened, without any support from the state hence the matric pass rate continued to decline for about 6 years in the province. The very same DA that is accused of only caring for rich whites came to power and reversed that 6 year decline, Marius Fransman and his comrades did not threaten to take his comrades to court when books were not delivered to Khayelitsha No.5 High School nor did he organise public meetings to discuss the declining matric pass rate in the province.

After several protests by teachers and learners at Khayelitsha No.5 High to the then ANC governed WCED, books were finally delivered in Augast. Again, Fransman, Tony and the rest of the comrades were silent, did not care as long as their comrades were in power, never mind what they did or didn't do with that power.

Khayelitsha No.5 High had a building that was not suitable for learning, the building was old and didn't belong to the WCED so the learners and teachers were moved to Umtha Welanga primary school. So you had a primary school from 08h00-12h00 and a high school from 12h30-15h30.

This was not the best alternative as it meant that both the primary and high school did not have enough time for learning, and we did not have mathematics teachers. A decision to close a primary school that was closer to Mtha Welanga primary was made, this made sense because the school had low enrollment rate combined with poor performance, so Emithini Primary school was closed after an extensive public participation process.

The next question to ask is what happened to the children and teachers? Both were absorbed by other nearby schools such as Mtha Welanga primary and the Khayelitsha No.5 pupil with their teachers moved to the former Emithini Primary school premises. The building was in a good condition so it made sense to use it instead of building a new high school. Mtha Welanga primary could accommodate the Emithini Primary school pupil because there were about three unused classrooms there. Today Khayelitsha No.5 High also known as Iqhayiya secondary has a building and a primary school that was not doing well was closed and children accommodated elsewhere, where they could receive the kind of education they deserve.

Many complain that a move to a new area can be a difficult transition for the children, but this depends on what kind of school they are moving from. Another example of a necessary relocation is that of Usasazo High, also in Khayelitsha. Usasazo was located in a very old building in Maitland, the building was so old that it couldn't be renovated, it could only be demolished and rebuilt. Those who were in the old building could tell you stories of how they couldn't keep books open on rainy days as the roof had quite a lot of holes; in fact learners kept their rain coats on in class.

Because most of the Usasazo learners were from Khayelitsha and surrounding areas, a decision was made to build a new high school in Khayelitsha, this is where the school moved, from Maitland to Khayelitsha. Children no longer needed to rush to get the school bus, they could now walk to school. A move becomes necessary when a building is too old unless you want it to collapse on the pupil, in which case, the very same people moaning about school closures would cry foul and blame government for keeping children in an old building.

The other issue to consider when closing schools besides old buildings or poor performance and low enrollment, and housing developments, when government builds low cost houses, children often have to commute to school from their new homes. A classic example of this would be Langa and Delft, people were relocated from Langa, Nyanga and Freedom Farm to the N2 Gateway low cost housing development. Four new schools were built in Delft to accommodate them, three have already been completed and 1 is still in temporal classrooms.

It then makes sense to close St Louis Primary in Langa as the premises are smaller than most schools, meaning there is not enough space to build other essential facilities such a library (The principal turned a classroom into a library), sport fields and so on; so accommodating the children at other schools such as Zimasa Primary in Langa where there will be enough space after the children who have been commuting from Delft move to their new schools in Delft.

The Western Cape Education Department has built 27 new schools so far since 2009 and more to be built, ironically WCED announced the proposed closure of 27 schools, oh dear! Where most of the children and teachers will be absorbed, and no silly; they won't be accommodated at top performing schools such as Westerford High, simply because you as the tax payer cannot afford to pay for that poor child to go there, the fees cost over R20 000.00 a year and you can't even afford R2000.00 per child a year.. The Western Cape Education MEC Donald Grant has been saying this over and over again, see this issue within the context of developments in the province. People move, buildings get old, schools continue to perform poorly even with additional support, so schools are closed, not because its fun to close them and deny children their right to basic education, but because circumstances make it difficult for the department to provide the child with the education the child deserves.

If the minister closed a school and children who went to that school were not enrolled at another school, the minister will have undermined the child's constitutional right to basic education, giving Fransman and co a good enough reason to drag the minister to the courts.

Others were also shocked to learn that about 500 schools were identified for closure in the Eastern Cape, again, if we look at what informs such a decision you will actually see that such closures are necessary. It was reported that there were around 400+ schools built with mud in the Eastern Cape, one such school is the one on the photo above taken by Equal Education in rural Libode, the pupil share their classrooms with horses, donkeys and other livestock. So children have to first clean up before class and the building is a safety hazard as it could collapse any minute possibly killing a pupil or two. One of the schools identified for closure in the Western Cape was built in the 1800s, yes, legally the school forms part of our heritage, a building must be 60 years old to form part of our heritage but for safety and cost reasons, it cannot be renovated all the time thus must be closed, to be rebuilt from scratch.

It then makes sense to identity such schools for closure, but in the Eastern Cape it won't be managed as it has been managed in the Western Cape. Funds are returned to treasury in the Eastern Cape instead of rebuilding such schools, or they simply over spend, probably on salaries and benefits, think about the cars they drive at the expense of the tax payer and the Eastern Cape learners.

I ask you to show me just one parent who would want their child to continue attending a school that does not provide the education or learning environment the child deserves? just one, not too many.

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