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THE threatened closure of 27 schools has blown up into a political row with the ANC alliance accusing the DA-led provincial government of racism.
Top provincial members of the ANC, Cosatu, teachers’ union Sadtu and others held a press conference yesterday to announce their opposition to the possible closure of schools.
A number of the principals of the affected schools attended. They received a notice from Education MEC Donald Grant about a month ago announcing his intention to consider them for possible closure.
Reasons for their notice included dwindling pupil numbers, insufficient chance of future growth, the use of multigrade teaching and the poor quality of teaching and learning.
Sadtu’s provincial secretary Jonovan Rustin said Grant had not properly considered the schools’ individual circumstances and this indicated the “high-handed manner” in which the provincial government treated working-class black pupils.
Marius Fransman, leader of the ANC in the Western Cape, said that this perpetuated a policy of racism, discrimination and white privilege in school education.
“We must force Premier Helen Zille and the DA to listen, take heed and action. They must listen to the plight of our communities, they must act in the best interest of each and every school pupil.
“There must be negotiation on the matter. That is not politicking. This is the lives and the education of our young people.”
Cosatu secretary Tony Ehrenreich said: “All learners must have the same education opportunities. We’re not saying we reject it out of hand. There must be fair consultation and negotiations.”
Equal Education’s Brad Brockman said that it was opposed to schools being closed because they were underperforming.
“A worrying reason given for closure of some schools is that the majority of learners do not live in the local community. South Africa’s history of racial inequality and separate development must not be perpetuated. Schools must be integrated and past injustices, such as the Group Areas Act, must not continue to define the opportunities and resources that South Africans are able to access,” he said.
Grant said at a media briefing the decision on whether to close schools would not be made lightly. “I care deeply about the outcomes of the individual learners affected by any decision that this government takes to close schools. My final decision is therefore made with restraint and is ultimately guided by what is lawful and what is in the best interests of our learners.”
Grant hit back at claims that he was only concerned with the education outcomes of white pupils at former Model C schools.
“I do not see children in racial groups, I just see children. The Western Cape Education Department does not discriminate in its support to schools. Every school will get the same support.”
Grant said he would carefully consider the responses made by the school governing bodies. Afterwards he would decide whether it was appropriate to proceed with the school closure process and then hold a public participation process. He would make a final decision “after careful consideration of all representations submitted”.
Grant was expected to make this decision in late September or early October.