Equal Education says Western Cape MEC Debbie Schäfer has falsely accused the organisation of not helping with the admissions crisis. Picture Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)
Equal Education says Western Cape MEC Debbie Schäfer has falsely accused the organisation of not helping with the admissions crisis. Picture Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)

EE slams MEC Schäfer over false claims

By Zodidi Dano Time of article published Apr 29, 2021

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Education activism group, Equal Education (EE), has hit back at the Western Cape MEC Debbie Schäfer accusing her of making false claims about the organisation’s alleged unwillingness to assist with the school’s admission crisis.

In a media statement last week, the MEC said the education group had not provided her department with “any variable data” on the number of pupils who had not been enrolled at schools.

“This is most unfortunate as we (the WCED) had hoped to have assistance in this regard”, the MEC had said.

In a rebuttal, EE and the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) said they want to put on record that “Schäfer’s comments are false”.

“This is not the first time MEC Schäfer has claimed that we have not given her “verifiable data”. In 2015, she accused learner members of EE (Equalisers) of providing her with “loose papers and vague allegations” when we submitted the findings of our social audit on school safety and sanitation to her.

“Publicly blaming our organisations for such information not being available, is an inexcusable failure to fulfil her responsibility,” EE argued.

EE said in anticipation of the start of the year the organisation had written to Schäfer in October last year already to raise concerns about the province’s plans regarding placement of pupils for the year 2021.

“Our two organisations stressed the need for the WCED to develop well thought through, clear plans to address the yearly crisis. MEC Schäfer’s response to this letter was dismissive and did not provide a plan,” EE said in a statement.

The education right’s group further added that it had given the MEC the data she needed, of children who had not been enrolled in Forest Village, which the MEC said she did not receive on April 14, before she issued her statement.

Due to the non-placement of children, residents at Forest Village had taken to teach their children under trees. The illegal school was operated by volunteer teachers. The parents demanded that a new school be built to accommodate those children as all nearby schools were oversubscribed. Schäfer initially said she would not be strong-armed to doing it however, the WCED has since made plans to build mobile schools.

“We are focused on the best interests of pupils and the right to basic education, and that is why we try to support the WCED by bringing urgent matters to their attention. For example, last month, based on feedback from EE’s parent members and the EELC’s clients, we wrote to the WCED asking for the deadline for admissions for 2022 to be extended, to ensure that parents/guardians are given enough time to enrol their children.

“We are disappointed that despite the clear negative impact of Covid-19 on schooling, the admissions application period for 2022 opened so early this year and for a very short time (one month), while the WCED was still trying to find schools for pupils for 2021! The WCED then did extend the deadline for applications, but only by four days,” EE concluded.

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