Eastern Cape communities fight against closure of schools

Posted on:
9 Apr 2016
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Ujuh Reporter

The Legal Resources Cen­tre (LRC) is gunning for an urgent interdict against the Min­is­ter of Basic Edu­ca­tion and the East­ern Cape Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion in order to stop the closure of four farm schools in the Fort Beaufort area.

The LRC is representing the Cen­tre for Child Law which is acting on behalf of the affected communities. Their argument is that the closure of the four schools will significantly disrupt the education of affected pupils and disrupt the lives of the poor communities.

The provin­cial depart­ment of education is said to have informed the communities in November 2015 of its decision to close the four schools and relocate its learners to a school and a hostel in Adelaide which is 80km away.

The affected schools are Hunt­ley Glen, Bel­mont, Belvedere and Lyne­doch farm schools, all located in the Fort Beau­fort Dis­trict near the town of Bed­ford.

A statement released by the LRC claims that the department did not consult with the affected par­ents.

The statement adds that across the coun­try, provin­cial depart­ments of edu­ca­tion are clos­ing farm schools in rural and remote com­mu­ni­ties, often forc­ing fam­i­lies to send learn­ers as young as seven-years-old to live in under-staffed, poorly super­vised hos­tel schools in dis­tant towns.

In many instances of farm school clo­sures, par­tic­u­larly in the East­ern Cape, the state fails to pro­vide scholar trans­port to schools and fails to ensure access to hos­tels for learn­ers. More­over, the deci­sion to close the farm schools is often taken with­out con­sult­ing the par­ents or school gov­ern­ing bod­ies at the affected schools as required by the South African Schools Act.

Par­ents in the com­mu­nity are deeply con­cerned about the neg­a­tive effects of school clo­sures on learn­ers and their fam­i­lies. Yan­diswa Nqan­gela has two chil­dren at the Hunt­ley Glen school in grades 2 and 3. In her affi­davit to the court, she says that, “many of the learn­ers will find a move to a hos­tel extremely dif­fi­cult after hav­ing expe­ri­enced noth­ing but rural farm life.”

Fur­ther­more, “par­ents are con­cerned about the gen­eral safety of hos­tels and the increased risks to learn­ers that will accom­pany less super­vi­sion. The threat of vio­lence and sex­ual assault may increase for learn­ers who are liv­ing in hos­tels away from their fam­i­lies.” Ms Nqan­gela is also con­cerned about super­vi­sion in the hos­tel, the pro­vi­sion of ade­quate food, as well as her chil­dren doing their home­work and tak­ing care of their per­sonal hygiene.

The clo­sure of schools will affect thou­sands of learn­ers in the province. In Decem­ber 2015, the Depart­ment announced that it would be clos­ing 2000 ‘unvi­able’ schools. The Depart­ment has not made any writ­ten plans that set out how learn­ers will be pro­vided with edu­ca­tion once these ‘unvi­able’ schools are closed.

The school gov­ern­ing bod­ies of the four farm schools and the CCL have launched an urgent appli­ca­tion in the Gra­ham­stown High Court seek­ing the fol­low­ing:

  • To inter­dict the Min­is­ter of Basic Edu­ca­tion and the East­ern Cape Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion from clos­ing the four farm schools, or any other school, until they have com­plied with the pro­ce­dural require­ments for the clo­sure or merg­ing of pub­lic schools.
  • A dec­la­ra­tion that the South African Schools Act imposes an oblig­a­tion on the Depart­ment to pro­vide schools with a writ­ten plan for how the clo­sure or merger of pub­lic schools will take place.

The schools have applied for the mat­ter to be heard on 12 May 2016 in the Gra­ham­stown High Court.

news@ujuh.co.za

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