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Cosatu has threatened the Western Cape Education Department with legal action over its intention to close 27 schools in the province, warning Education MEC Donald Grant that he should prepare himself for a fight.
The labour federation fired the first salvo at a press briefing in Cape Town on Wednesday, saying it would drag Grant to court if he tried to close the schools without following a fair process.
But Grant hit back, saying it was unfortunate that Cosatu had “cheapened challenging decisions” that had to be made.
He said communities would have a chance to voice their concerns.
“The final decision to close a school rests with me… but before any decision of this nature is made, prescribed public participation procedures and processes must be followed,” he said.
The school governing bodies have until Friday to make written and oral representations. Grant is then to decide whether to proceed with the closure and, if so, arrange a public hearing to allow communities to state their case.
Grant’s reasons for wanting to close the schools came under fire at the Cosatu press briefing, attended by representatives of the ANC, the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) and Equal Education.
Equal Education’s Brad Brockman said one of the reasons being cited by the department was that pupils came from outside the school community.
“The imperative has to be integration in our schools. We can’t return to a situation where we say that learners from African townships must go back.”
ANC provincial chairman Marius Fransman said he was shocked it was being claimed that enrolment numbers had dropped at a school in Bishop Lavis targeted for closure, when they had increased.
About 1 000 children would be displaced by closure, he said.
Cosatu provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich said the Department of Education had not addressed the effect of gangsterism on schools.
“We want the army to be brought in, we want the police to be stationed at schools.”
Sadtu provincial secretary Jonavon Rustin said a march to protest at the closures was being planned for next term.