WCED Makes the Decision to Temporarily Close Umyezo Wama Apile School
Media Statement by Donald Grant, Minister of Education
Following the disruption of teaching and learning time and the intimidation of learners and educators at Umyezo Wama Apile Combined School by elements of the Grabouw community over the course of the last week, I have considered various means at my disposal to prevent further disruption at this school.
These options were discussed fully with the Western Cape Education Department (WCED). A final decision has been made by the Head of Department with my full support to close the school until the end of the first term on Friday, 23 March 2012.
The WCED has not taken this step lightly and remains committed to its policy of protecting teaching and learning time.
However, as explained in a letter sent to the school this morning by the Head of the WCED, the disruption and intimidation of teachers and learners have made it impossible for normal teaching and learning to take place. The acts of violence - including the burning of two classrooms and other damage to property - also justify this unusual step.
There have been suggestions that the disruption and intimidation of teachers and learners have been influenced by the upcoming by-elections and will continue into the next week or so.
If this is so, I am deeply disheartened that the people responsible for the disruption and intimidation of teachers and learners have chosen to take these actions at the expense of our learners' education.
It is imperative that we do what is necessary to ensure the safety of our learners. The decision to close the school until the end of term has been taken to protect our learners.
The learners will be dismissed from today, Wednesday, 14 March 2012. Learners have been requested to return to school when schools re-open after the upcoming school holidays on Tuesday, 10 April 2012.
The WCED has developed a comprehensive management plan that aims to ensure that we do everything possible to mitigate the impact of the loss of teaching and learning time.
The WCED is confident that the necessary support can be made available to learners to offset any loss of teaching and learning time, particularly teaching and learning during a period of disruption. The WCED's district officials will assist the teachers in preparing the necessary catch-up plans.
The school's management team and other educators will report for duty as usual and will continue with school-related activities for the remainder of the term.
Meanwhile, the WCED will do everything in its power to ensure that additional temporary classrooms are available and ready for use by the start of the second term 2012. At the same time, all efforts to obtain a site for a permanent school will continue.
All of our resources will be used to ensure that these objectives are met to ensure that the rights of these learners to receive an education are met in these difficult times.
I would also like to be clear regarding a few of the misrepresentations that have been circulating.
I have at all times been made aware of the situation in Grabouw. I visited the school late last year and saw for myself the conditions at the school. These conditions have been made worse by the unexpected influx of 600 additional learners at the beginning of this year. I have on numerous occasions expressed to the media that a solution is being sought by the WCED.
Last week, a temporary solution was identified. I discussed this further with the Mayor of the Theewaterskloof Municipality at a meeting last Saturday and every effort is being made to give effect to this solution. I communicated with the relevant authorities on this matter on 8 March 2012, including the principal and the school governing body.
It is my responsibility to communicate with legitimate structures in the school, including the school management and the school governing body in matters pertaining to that particular school.
The Elgin Grabouw Civic Organisation has received correspondence from my office on 9 March 2012 explaining that a solution to the land issue has been found - news which they choose to ignore.
I must also make clear that the teacher educator ratio at the school is 36:1 which is the norm in public ordinary schools across the province and the country.
Spokesperson for Minister Grant
Cell: 072 724 1422
Tel: 021 467 2377