KZN Education Department to close more than 900 schools by 2028

File Picture: Jacques Naude

File Picture: Jacques Naude

Published May 10, 2023


KwaZulu-Natal’s Department of Education (DoE) plans to shut 255 small and non-viable schools – 70 high schools and 185 primary schools – during the 2023/24 financial year and 967 schools by 2028. These are schools with few learners.

In a recent presentation to the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature, the head of the department, Nkosinathi Ngcobo said most of the schools were in rural areas.

He said the department was looking at progressively closing the small schools. There were more than 900 of them in the province.

The department would start with those that had the lowest enrolment or were furthest from the threshold.

“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,” he said.

A graph presented to the provincial legislature in Pietermaritzburg shows that phase one will see 255 schools closed, starting from next year.

Phase two, from 2024 to 2026, will see 379 schools closed and phase three, from 2026 to 2028, a further 333.

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 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.

“The recent collapse of the National School Nutrition Programme, leaving millions of learners hungry, is just one example of what happens without such measures in place.

“The DA acknowledges that there are some schools which need to be closed and even repurposed, however, the exact extent and financial impact is yet unknown,” he said.

The DA recently visited one such school in the Harry Gwala district. There were only two learners.

“Clearly, it does not make sense for this school to remain open. These learners must, however, be safely transported to the nearest schools,” he said.

Keeka said the schools that were closed became derelict, were vandalised and, in some cases, became denizens for drug lords and users and havens for crooks.

“The DA has already placed alternatives on the table for these buildings. Our recommendations include their being used by local communities for a vast variety of activities or being repurposed for state services, such as for the delivery of chronic medication. Large boarding schools are another option which must be explored.

“A drive around KZN reveals the many schools which have been closed and are now empty are in a state of disrepair. This is yet another blot on the landscape of our province and the result of government that simply does not care,” he said.

IFP MP Mntomuhle Khawula said the declining numbers of learners in rural schools were due to the government’s failure to resource them adequately. People who lived in rural areas were forced to pay exorbitant school and transport fees to send their children to schools in urban areas.

He said that even though transport was promised to the children whose schools were closed, that had not materialised.

“When they say 255 schools have five or 10 learners, that is not true,” Khawula said.

[email protected]