WCape schools: Shame on Ehrenreich and Fransman – Theuns Botha

Theuns Botha

DA provincial leader asks where ANC and COSATU were when 4 500 schools were closed in rest of SA.


The ANC and Cosatu are doing their utmost to convince the people of the Western Cape that the proposed closure of 27 schools in the province is motivated by agendas other than providing the best possible education opportunities for learners. The facts simply do not support this.

The DA-run Western Cape Government has a clearly articulated and comprehensive plan for improving education outcomes and, in turn, the life chances of all learners in the province. This plan is aimed at improving the quality of education for each and every learner in the province – particularly those living in the poorest communities of the Western Cape.

If the ANC and Cosatu were honest with the public about this plan, they would know that it includes, for example, the opening of new schools serving learners living in poorer areas; the replacement of schools originally built of inappropriate materials usually during the apartheid era; and the merger and closure of non-viable schools. This plan also includes:

  • providing targeted support to schools aimed at improving the safety of learners and the security of schools;
  • providing learner transport to learners living in the province’s poorer rural areas;
  • expanding access to the province’s school-based nutrition programme to reduce the impact of poverty and crime on teaching and learner;
  • increased investment in educator development; as well as
  • supplying additional resources, such as textbooks, over and above those that are nationally prescribed.

School closures cannot simply be seen in insolation of this plan.

In their public statements, the ANC and Cosatu ignore the fact that school closures are by no means unique to the Western Cape. Where were the ANC and Cosatu when it was reported earlier this year that more than 4 500 public schools across the provinces have been closed in the last five years? Once again, the facts speak for themselves.

No education department worth its salt can in its school provisioning plan ignore shifts in learner numbers, ageing infrastructure and persistent poor performance. Anything less would condemn the school system to its past despite shifts in needs and realities.

School closures are therefore an important part of ensuring that the shape and size of the entire education system is better aligned to the needs of society than before. Where the DA governs, it is prepared to make the tough decisions that can benefit our children’s future. The DA therefore supports the plan of the Western Cape Government to expand and consolidate school infrastructure where this is needed to improve the quality of schooling in the province.

By ignoring what is required to meet the changing education needs and realities of our communities, the ANC and Cosatu in the Western Cape have cheapened a challenging decision that needs to be taken not only in the Western Cape but across all provinces to improve school provisioning for all children.

It is a great pity that neither the ANC nor Cosatu have informed themselves of the requirements of ANC-developed national legislation pertaining to school closures. These requirements provide for extensive school community input, consultation and careful planning.

The planning includes ensuring that each and every learner and teacher affected by a school closure can be suitably accommodated elsewhere in an educationally viable school. Ignoring this fact, the ANC has tried to convince the people of this province that the Western Cape Government intends to use the closure of schools to improve pass rates in the province. The ANC’s assertion in this regard is as absurd as it is untrue.

A claim by the ANC that will undoubtedly become stronger as the party becomes more desperate towards the general elections in 2014 is that the DA-run Western Cape Government does not spend sufficiently on the poorer members of the province. Once again, the facts simply do not support this claim.

Consistently the poorer 60% of our school population receive the greater allocations in terms of indicators such as norms and standards funding, school feeding, new infrastructure and learner transport. The majority of the Western Cape Government’s resources are quite rightly being invested in improving the quality of education in poorer areas and the return of this investment is beginning to show across the whole province. For instance, the province’s poorest schools in National Quintile 1 in the National Senior Certificate examinations improved their pass rate from 57% in 2010 to 70% in 2011. The pass rate across schools in the poorest three National Quintiles increased to more than 70%.

It is typical of and unfortunate that the ANC and Cosatu use false claims of racism and ignorantly single out one aspect of the Western Cape Government’s plan for education to distort what is really being done here to improve education outcomes for the benefit of all learners in the province, particularly those learners who live in the province’s poorest communities.

Mr Fransman and Mr Ehrenreich clearly have no idea of public schooling other than how to attempt to use them for their own political ends. So they continue to construe schooling along racial lines, ignoring the many realities on the ground. Public schooling remains one of the great means of breaking the cycle of poverty – provided it is of a sufficiently high quality. History and long service do not guarantee quality. Organisation, proper resources, planning and accountability are more likely to.

Statement issued by Theuns Botha, DA Western Cape leader, July 4 2012


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