Durban – The IFP said it is deeply concerned about the KZN education department’s decision to shut 900 schools, especially those in rural areas.
IFP provincial chairperson Thami Ntuli said closing down these schools will force hundreds, if not thousands, of pupils to walk long distances to school.
“In the same vein, this will also make it challenging for parents, especially in rural areas, to travel long distances to attend parents’ meetings or to assess their child’s performance and attend school governing body meetings”.
Ntuli called on the department to engage in community consultations with all the schools impacted by the plan.
“It is, therefore, disappointing to witness the government making pronouncements without details of how public participation will occur. An important way in which communities, particularly traditional communities, participate in government decision-making is through traditional authorities.
This comes after the provincial education department made proposals to shut 255 small and non-viable schools, which include 70 high schools and 185 primary schools, during the 2023/ 24 financial year, and 967 schools by the year 2028. These are schools said to have few pupils.
Phase two, from 2024 to 2026, will see 379 schools closed, and phase three, from 2026 to 2028, a further 333 schools.
“The department must therefore ensure they consult with Amakhosi as opposed to simply announcing plans that impact them.
“Ward committees also provide a structured model for public consultation and participation, and we suggest the department also make use of these structures,” Ntuli added.
In a recent presentation to the KZN Legislature, the head of the department, Nkosinathi Ngcobo, said most of the schools were in rural areas.
“For example, in this financial year, the schools we are targeting have an enrolment of zero already, and those are the schools that have closed naturally, simply because there is no single learner,” Ngcobo said.
Ntuli called on the department to invest in developing and equipping rural schools rather than closing them down. More teachers must also be employed from the ever-growing pool of unemployed educators and graduates. This will ensure that parents do not transfer their children to better-performing schools, he added.
In addition, the District Development Model compels the department to consult and plan with municipalities where schools are located. Local government would have made considerable effort to bring some services, such as sanitation, water, and electricity, to schools, particularly in rural areas. Therefore closing these schools, Ntuli added, will reduce the money spent to fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
“As the IFP, we wish to remind the MEC Mbali Frazer that education is a hard-won constitutional right, and we would not want these school closures to infringe upon the rights of learners,” Ntuli stressed.
DA provincial education spokesperson Dr Imran Keeka said the government should be in the business of opening schools, not closing them unless absolutely necessary.
He said that shutting down a vast number of schools would lead to more chaos if there was no proper planning, monitoring and mechanisms of accountability in the event of failures.
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