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Cape Town - Western Cape education MEC Donald Grant was granted leave to appeal on Thursday against a ruling setting aside his decision to close 17 schools.
The application by Grant and his department was heard by the Western Cape High Court and was not opposed by any of the schools involved, said his spokeswoman Bronagh Casey.
The application was for direct access to the Supreme Court of Appeal.
According to court papers, Grant argued the court had failed to take into consideration that the decision to close schools was in the best interest of pupils, by improving education opportunities.
It was also argued that the court had incorrectly interpreted the SA School's Act provision about hearing the concerns of affected parties.
He said the court's ruling required a school closure decision to be preceded by a public consultation process, when the act required only “representations”. The application contained 24 other grounds for appeal.
Grant announced last year that 27 schools faced possible closure for various reasons. After representations were made at public hearings, he decided to close 18 schools and transfer pupils to “receiving schools”.
One of these, Tonko Bosman Primary in Somerset West, agreed to the closure. The other schools' governing bodies and the SA Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu) approached the court for a review of Grant's decision.
The Western Cape High Court consequently ruled that the reasons given for the closures were brief and that the public consultation process was inadequate.
It set aside Grant's decision, which was made in October with effect from December 31, and ordered him and his department to pay the legal costs of the schools and their governing bodies.
In the same ruling, the court dismissed the argument by Sadtu and the schools that section 33.2 of the schools act, which governs MEC powers, was unconstitutional.
On Thursday, Sadtu and the schools approached the same Western Cape High Court Bench for leave to appeal the decision to dismiss the constitutional argument.
“We are of the opinion that the section is unconstitutional and gives members of the executive committee too much power,” said Save Our Schools campaign organiser Magnus de Jongh.
“We argued that section 33 is not in the best interests of the child.”
The cross-appeal was dismissed.
Instructing attorney for the schools and Sadtu, Jerald Andrews, said the only avenue left for them was to petition the Supreme Court of Appeal directly.
“I still have to discuss it with Sadtu. I've contacted the individual schools and am waiting for feedback and formal instructions.”