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EDUCATION MEC Donald Grant says he has not taken a final decision on closing schools, but principals say a letter he sent them contradicts this and gives the impression that he has already made up his mind to close them.
The SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) has said Grant is acting in bad faith and called for the withdrawal of the letter.
The letter to schools, which is headed “official closure” followed by the name of the affected school, was received by governing bodies this week.
One letter stated that “after thorough evaluation of all the submissions presented to me regarding the intended closure (of the school)” he had decided, in terms of the SA Schools Act, to proceed with the process to close the school on December 31.
Franklin Phillipus, principal of Athwood Primary in Hanover Park, said he was concerned because the letter’s subject line said “official closure” and staff and the rest of the school community were disheartened after receiving it.
Henry Hockey, caretaker principal of Beauvallon Secondary in Valhalla Park, said the letter gave the impression that the school was officially closing. He said parents had arrived at the school to ask whether this was the case.
Jonty Damsell, principal of Zonnebloem Nest Senior School, said it was contradictory that Grant was asking for public representations on the closure when his final decision had been taken long ago.
At a press conference yesterday, Grant announced that he had decided to proceed with public hearings for all 27 schools that are facing possible closure.
He said he had not taken the decision lightly.
“The decision merely officially marks the beginning of the broader participation process.
“It does not indicate any final decision on my behalf.”
He called on parents, pupils, teachers and community members to share their views on the proposed closures before the end of August.
Western Cape Education Department spokesman Paddy Attwell said they were aware of the confusion over the subject line of the letter issued to schools.
“We are contacting each of the schools… to ensure that they are aware of the process involved and that they must refer to the contents of the letter. We apologise for any confusion in this regard.”
Sadtu provincial secretary Jonavan Rustin said the choice of words in the letter gave the impression that a fair and objective and process was not going to be followed.