Cape Town 100511. MEC Donald Grant addresses the media on the new Own your future billboard campaign at Masiyile senior school in Khayelitsha. PHOTO SAM CLARK, CA and CT.

Cape Town - The Western Cape Education Department is continuing with its plans to close 18 schools at the end of the year despite a court bid to stay open.

Education MEC Donald Grant plans to oppose an application by the schools for an interdict preventing closure.

Reasons for the closures included dwindling pupil numbers, multi-grade teaching and inadequate infrastructure.

The schools, their governing bodies and the SA Democratic Teachers Union lodged an application at the Western Cape High Court a week ago, asking for an interdict to stop the closures on December 31 and for Grant’s decision to be reviewed and set aside.

The matter is set down for hearing on Wednesday.

Grant’s spokeswoman, Bronagh Casey, told the Cape Times on Sunday that he had received the legal papers on Tuesday.

“The [MEC] is currently studying the papers and is taking legal advice. This is an extensive process that requires careful reading and consideration. We are intending to oppose the application.”

Casey said the process to close the schools would continue.

“The department will continue to follow procedure on closing the schools, in line with national guidelines and legislation. Arrangements are going ahead as per normal. The schools are scheduled to close on December 31, 2012.”

Grant had released a plan for pupils affected by the school closures, which included details of the schools they would attend next year and whether they would be eligible for transport and fee exemptions.

“Our district offices are working with principals to facilitate the transfer of learners and staff at receiving schools,” Casey said.

She said department staff were also checking on assets at each of the schools.

“District officials are liaising with principals to ensure that school inventories are complete. The department will only move furniture and other assets once the schools have closed at the end of term.”

Casey said plans were also under way to inform teachers where they would be placed next year.

“The department has completed a personnel plan in consultation with unions. The WCED has issued letters informing staff where they have been placed. Most teachers are following the learners to their new schools.”

The two schools not part of the litigation are Hoopsrivier NGK Primary in the Cape Winelands and Langkloof Primary in the Eden and Central Karoo.

In an affidavit submitted to the court, Henry Hockey, the acting principal at Beauvallon Secondary School in Valhalla Park, said the school closures were unlawful and unconstitutional.

He said the closures did not take into account the best interests of the pupils.

Hockey said there were “no placement plans or meaningful placement plans in place”.

In certain cases, the alternatives were “wholly unsatisfactory” and would expose pupils to “the risk of death, injury and serious harm in many cases”, he added.

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Cape Times