Powers from Western Cape Provincial School Education Act allowing the MEC hire and fire would “hamper the independence of the evaluation authority” says Sadtu. Pictures: Armand Hough / African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - Education MEC Debbie Schäfer is facing her first legal challenge since her re-appointment last week as the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) threatens to seek urgent relief of their legal challenge against the Western Cape Provincial School Education Act, which was filed in April.

Sadtu provincial secretary Jonavon Rustin on Sunday said that although the matter was set to come before the courts “sometime in late August or early September”, the union may go ahead and try and bring the court date forward if it appeared that the MEC was determined to go ahead with her plan to implement the controversial schools evaluation authority aspect of the act.

He said the union had also written to “the national Department of Education to ask them to stall all aspects of the act”.

In an interview shortly after she was sworn in as a member of Premier Alan Winde’s new cabinet, Schäfer said the contentious schools evaluation authority would be a top priority for her as she returns to work on the Education portfolio.

She said she was “excited to get the basics right and completely implement the Western Cape Provincial School Education Act’s provisions, especially the schools evaluation authority” which she described as “a sort of inspectorate”.

The MEC said: “I am excited to be back in the office as it means that I will be there for the appointing of the chief evaluator, who will among other things, assess the quality of teaching and learning in the classroom, and the general functionality of schools in the province.”

Signed into effect by then premier Helen Zille in April, the relevant section of the act provides for the MEC to set up the evaluation authority and to appoint a chief evaluator who will in turn appoint a lead evaluator and evaluators.

The MEC also has powers to remove the chief evaluator from office.

Rustin says that these powers to hire and fire “hamper the independence of the authority” and if implemented will be very damaging to schools.

“We live in a divided and unequal society and an outsider who is not fully aware of the realities of many schools in the province could misuse the power they have as an evaluator and damage schools,” he said.

“The establishment of the authority undermines and also duplicates the Education Labour Relations Council Resolution 8/2003 which binds the WCED.”

This resolution set up the integrated quality management system, which includes developmental appraisal, performance measurement, and whole school evaluation.

Commenting on Schäfer’s reappointment in a statement issued last week, leader of the ANC in the province Cameron Dugmore said: “We believe that more could have been achieved by a co-operative approach to the education sector.”

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Cape Argus