News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Thursday September 19th 2019

Cosatu will ‘bring down DA’ over school closures

Cosatu has threatened to topple the DA provincial administration through protests and court challenges should education MEC Donald Grant go ahead with plans to close 27 schools in the province.

Earlier this month Grant announced his intention to close 27 under-performing schools because learner numbers at these schools were very low and the schools had little prospect of improving their situation.

“We are going to oppose any closures until a legitimate fair process if followed,” said the union’s provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich in a statement today.

He said while the schools were on holiday Cosatu was prepared to engage with Grant to find solutions to the “crisis”.

He said Cosatu was opposing the move because “black schools are not a priority to a government that cares mainly for the needs of the old white schools”.

“But the question remains, how schools can be closed when so many schools are overcrowded in poor areas?” said Ehrenreich.

A press conference, which according to Ehrenreich, would be supported by civil society organizations, including churches, was scheduled for tomorrow in order to call for Grant’s removal from office.

The press conference would also outline proposals to deal with the crisis of gang violence in schools as, according to Ehrenreich, Grant was “just perpetuating the arrogance of Premier Zille in refusing to engage with communities to find solutions”.

He said the threat to close 27 schools was an indication of the high-handed manner in which the provincial government treated the interests of working class black learners.

“The present system seeks to close mainly black schools with declining numbers, but leave open mainly white schools with declining numbers.”

He said the reasons for closing the schools were “entirely knee-jerk reactions, without an examination of the facts in the schools”.

It has been reported that the 27 schools have received notice from Grant of his intention to close them, the reasons being declining pupil numbers, no prospect of growth, and poor teaching and learning standards.

David Millar, provincial chairman of the National Professional Teachers Organisation of SA, said closing schools should be a last resort after intervention had taken place.

Additionally, he said, should the education department go ahead with closing the schools, teachers and learners should have much more forewarning.

“The department must make arrangements with school that are nearby to intake the learners” and government should prove it had offered the schools enough support before going ahead with closure, Millar said.

Grant’s spokesperson Bronagh Casey said “the process (of closing the schools) was underway.”

However, she said a final decision was not yet taken whether the schools would close or not, and whatever decision taken would be communicated to the affected schools.

“We also want to ensure that any decision to close a school is made with the best interests of the learners our top priority.

“The school governing bodies of each school has now been given the opportunity to make representations in relation to this proposed action,” said Casey, adding that Grant would consider all the representations made.

She said in most instances the number of learners at each of the threatened schools was fewer than 40.

Sadtu’s secretary Donovan Rustin was not available for comment. — Sandiso Phaliso

Tags: Cosatu, David Millar, Donald Grant, naptosa, sadtu, Tony Ehrenreich

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