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CONCERNS over the safety and reliability of buses are among the reasons two rural communities are opposing the proposed closures of their schools.
Langkloof Primary near Riversdale and Bracken Hill EK (Evangelical Church) Primary near Knysna are among 27 schools which could be closed at the end of the year.
The two communities had their say about the closures at public hearings last night.
Before the hearing, Sharon Filander, the chairwoman of Bracken Hill’s governing body, said should the school close, community members would refuse to place their children in other schools.
She said the school had 61 pupils.
“The children are being schooled in a safe environment, so why move them? Buses are not one of the options for our parents. We will refuse it.”
The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) has said that its reasons for the intended closure were dwindling pupil numbers and multigrade teaching at the school.
Filander said there were also fears that children would end up in overcrowded classrooms, should they be moved.
Langkloof Primary principal Elmien van der Nest said the school was 30km from Riversdale and served three farms. The school has 10 pupils.
“Our hearts say the school should remain open. Everything revolves around the school. The community will suffer if this school closes,” she said.
There were also questions about whether buses to proposed new schools would be safe and reliable.
Farmer Attie van den Berg said the community felt the school was facing closure for financial reasons. When the children entered Grade 7 they had to leave the farms to go to school in town.
“You find that these children drop out,” he said, and there was a possibility that moving the younger children would have the same effect.
The department’s reason for the intended closure is dwindling pupil numbers.
WCED spokesman Paddy Attwell, pictured, said the department understood the concerns of the communities about bus transport.
“The district office will discuss the matter further with all those affected if the schools close,” he added.
He said the aim of the proposed closures was to improve opportunities for the pupils and because other schools were “better equipped to provide the full curriculum”.
Attwell said the department would like to place the pupils in schools with single-grade classes, better facilities and better access to extra-mural activities.
“The minister (Donald Grant) will consider the submissions of the school communities carefully. He will base his decision on the best interests of the learners.”