Cape Town - Western Cape Education MEC David Maynier has been accused of attempting to evade being held to account on issues of unplaced pupils and 2023 admission challenges.
This was according to the ANC in the Western Cape Legislature, supported by parents and education activists, after Maynier requested a postponement in appearing before the Standing Committee on Education.
He wrote a letter to Committee the chairperson on 31 July, two days before the expected meeting, claiming the matter was before the Western Cape High Court.
Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) sought relief including that the department and Maynier state their plan on steps that will be taken to ensure that sufficient school places are available for pupils at public schools by the commencement of the 2023 academic year and that a plan be developed to assist unplaced and late registration pupils for the 2023 academic year.
However ANC education MPL Khalid Sayed said they received legal advice and counsel that there is no basis for using the sub judice rule to block discussions on 2023 admissions.
He said they will approach the legislature Speaker Masizole Mnqasela to urgently intervene in the matter if he fails to address it they will consider legal action.
“It is clear that the rules give powers to the Legislature to discuss any matter, even when it may be deemed sub judice. It is also incorrect that the matter is sub judice.
“Moreover, the 2023 admissions is not even the focus of the EELC’s legal action against the Metro East District. It is only mentioned in passing that it will have a bearing on 2023 admissions. It is therefore clear that the DA is using evasion tactics to run away from accountability” said Sayed.
He said nine months after the commencement of the 2022 academic year, 36 pupils from the province were not yet placed in schools.
He added that together with the parents they had hoped that the meeting would discuss strategies to avoid the chaos in 2023.
Parents for Equal Education SA (Peesa) founder, Vanessa Le Roux said the problem was the department not building new schools to accommodate pupils.
“Many areas have grown in population over the years while no new schools are built. Instead some schools keep on receiving mobile classrooms and in some cases schools don’t even have space for the mobile units.
“Just last week I was alerted about a grade 1 pupil who has not stepped inside a classroom since this academic year started. Some parents have lost hope,” said Le Roux.
She said some parents were told their children did not meet criteria while others received no explanation for being rejected from schools.
“The system is a complete failure and chaotic. A parent will be referred to the district and the district would refer them back to the school meaning some are going up and down using resources they don’t have.”
A parent from Paarl, Lumka Nobula also shared her frustration in applying to numerous schools for the 2023 academic year but her child has not been accepted for grade 8.
Maynier said some of the allegations were based on outdated information as there were only ten pupils across all grades whose parents submitted late applications seeking placement or transfer in the province for the 2022 school year.
“These were late applications received in recent weeks, and the department is currently working to assist these learners with placement options. These late applications are dealt with on a case-by-case basis according to their unique circumstances. There are various reasons why parents move around, resulting in learners seeking to change schools at this late stage in the year,” said Maynier.
He said some parents had confirmed placement for their children for the 2023 academic year which had allowed more spaces to be freed up for those whose placement was still in progress.
“We are working hard to finalise placement for all learners for whom applications have been received, with five months to go before the start of the academic year.”
He claimed they wanted the opportunity to brief the committee but were legally advised not to due to the contents of the committee’s request as the matter was a subject of an application before the court.
“We nonetheless intend to be as open and transparent as possible under the circumstances, and have advised the committee that we will, subject to legal advice, provide a written report to the Committee, and also look forward to briefing the Committee, but will only be in a position to do so once proceedings have been concluded in the High Court,” said Maynier.