New Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi Picture: Matthews Baloyi

Johannesburg - Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi’s plans to merge former Model C schools with township schools has met with mixed reactions.

Lesufi revealed his plans soon after his appointment and said this was in a bid to foster social cohesion and an attempt to improve the quality of education.

“I can’t preside over a tweaked apartheid education system… I’ve constituted a team that is reviewing the nature of our schools - we want to crush the backbone of apartheid education,” he said.

“I’m dreaming of the Waterkloof High School in Pretoria, that’s our richest school in the province, and Mamelodi High, which is one of our priority schools, being governed by one school governing body (SGB).”

The team he appointed to look into this and to assess the feasibility of the plan has reportedly given the MEC the green light and he has started consulting with schools that will be affected.

And if everything goes according to plan, well-resourced schools will be merged with poor schools and the unified schools will have one principal, one governing body and one bank account.

The intention is for the schools to share resources, facilities and staff members.

Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools deputy chief executive Dr Jaco Deacon said the federation was “shocked and surprised” that the department was already consulting with schools about this without the buy-in of SGB associations.

Deacon said anything that had to do with the closure or merger of schools had to be done according to the law as stipulated in the South African Schools Act.

“We’ve advised our (member schools) not to take part in this... until due processes have been followed,” he said.

“Mr Lesufi is abdicating his responsibility to provide quality education. He can’t outsource his responsibility to fix the system.

“First fix the problems in the schools, fix the problems in the province and then we can talk about the rest. We’re not against social cohesion, but this is not the vehicle to do it.”

Matakanye Matakanye, National Association of School Governing Bodies general secretary, said the association welcomed the proposed plans.

“We were consulted and met with the MEC, where he spoke about his policy directions. We are in support of the MEC… We support this method, it will ensure that there’s transformation of schools,” he said.

Gauteng Department of Education spokeswoman Phumla Sekhonyane said social cohesion was one of the department’s priority areas for the next five years.

She said the team set up by the department had looked into “ways of achieving this goal of a non-segregated and transformed education system” and would give the department pointers on how to maximise its resources for this process.

“The MEC will outline this during his budget vote speech later this month.”

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