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School closure judgment expected in next two weeks

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The Supreme Court of Appeal is set to finally pass judgement within the next two weeks on the fate of 17 schools, earmarked for closure in 2012 by the Western Cape Education Department. This comes after an initial move to have the schools shut down was overturned in July 2013, after a ruling by the Western Cape High Court.

In early 2012, then education MEC, Donald Grant, initiated a process to have several schools in the province shut down. The reasons given for the attempted closures differed from school to school, with students expected to be moved to nearby institutions, perceived to be better equipped to provide them with quality education. However, 17 of the earmarked schools attempted to challenge the decision, arguing that the process was unlawful, and further stating that the minister had failed to give them a fair opportunity to plead their case.

Amongst the schools in question are Valhalla Park based Beauvallon Secondary School. The school’s attorney, Jerald Andrews, said they had never received any consultation from the department surrounding any ‘receiving schools’, only discovering that plans were in place to move students via the minister’s statements in the media.

“They argue that they never had the opportunity to address the minister of the Western Cape Education Department on these receiving schools,” he stated.

In the case of Beauvallon, he said the minister had resolved to accommodating students at the nearby John Ramsay High School, situated in Bishop Lavis. However, the school argued that John Ramsey High was in no better situation than it was.

“The reasons the minister wanted to close Beauvallon, was due to so called consistent underperformance in the matric exams, underperformance in grade 8 to 11, and the schools high drop-out rate. Beauvallon argued that John Ramsey has the same problems in terms of consistent underperformance, even though their pass rate is a bit higher,” he said.

Furthermore, he noted that with both schools currently situated in gang infested areas, any movement of students may potentially put the students and teachers at risk of passing into the territory of an opposing gang.

“Crossing into a gang’s territory, even in a school, can be a matter of life and death. This is the reality of life in the Cape Flats,” he said.

Apart from Beauvallon Secondary, there are 16 other schools also facing potential closure at the hands of the department. The Supreme Court is set to pass its ruling within the early days of December. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)

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