Cape Town -
The Western Cape Education Department has been accused of “starving” the funding of 17 schools earmarked for closure in a bid to force them to close their doors in spite of a court ruling that they remain operational.
That’s the charge by the Save Our Schools Campaign, which said one of the schools on the Cape Flats had been left without power for more than two years. Girls and boys at the school also share toilets, and there is no funding to fix broken plumbing.
However, the department has denied the allegation.
“This is not true. All 17 schools are operating as per normal. They receive the funding for which they qualify, as with any other public school,” countered Bronagh Casey, provincial education department spokeswoman.
Campaign spokesman Magnus de Jongh is adamant the department is in breach of a Western Cape High Court order to keep the schools maintained while awaiting a ruling from the Supreme Court of Appeal.
“Several of the schools have reported being denied funding for much-needed maintenance. It is a shame that the department has decided not to follow the court’s instructions in what appears to be an attempt to ensure that the schools close. At the end of the day, it is the children who should be the number one priority,” he said.
De Jongh said the campaign would take legal action if the department did not correct the situation.
In July last year, the department failed in its attempt to close 17 schools in the Western Cape when the high court ruled that reasons for the closures were brief, and public consultation had been inadequate.
The department claimed as reasons for the planned closures low pupil numbers, poor performance, poor infrastructure, or a combination of these. It appealed against the ruling and is awaiting an outcome from the SCA within the next few months.
Beauvallon Secondary School in Valhalla Park is one of the schools hardest hit by a lack of funding.
About 20 classrooms have been destroyed or are unusable because of vandalism and years of neglect by the department, the school governing body has claimed.
For the past two years, the only building with power has been the administration block. The plumbing in the girls’ toilet failed recently, and without funds to fix it girls are having to share a toilet with the boys.
Principal David Lawn said the decay was the result of years of neglect.
“This school has been earmarked for a general upgrade for more than 10 years. We are in a poor community with very few parents able to pay school fees, so we have to rely on the education department for support. If we had help earlier, the school would never have fallen into its current state.”
Eric Walter, chairman of the Beauvallon governing body, said the department failed to understand the dangers that were part of life on the Cape Flats.
“Gangs do not differentiate between rivals and the innocent. If you live in area A and go to school in area B, gangsters from area B will see it as trespassing and will not hesitate to shoot, even if it’s schoolchildren.
“Valhalla Park is in desperate need of hope, and that is what we believe Beauvallon can be. We are working on our own to set up a school of skills to teach people practical trades like welding and bricklaying, so they stand a chance in life. This will help revitalise the school and the community, but we need help from the department.”
“We aren’t looking to fight them, but work together for everyone’s best interests.”
A Bonteheuwel Primary teacher, who asked to remain anonymous, said she felt resentful towards the department for its response.
“We have to teach multi-grade classes with up to 38 children per teacher because there are no funds for extra teachers, or even basic maintenance. Many of these children are part of the ‘tik generation’, meaning they are the children of tik addicts.”
Some of the children had special needs and needed special attention.
If they were moved to other schools, they would be part of bigger classes and would be deprived of the special attention they needed.
Casey said the department had not received any request for emergency maintenance at Beauvallon.
She said claims of children in need of special attention would be considered once the SCA had adjudicated the appeal.