Supreme Court of Appeal dismisses appeal by Uitzig SGB
Last week, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) dismissed – with costs - the appeal by Uitzig School Governing Body (SGB) against my 2017 decision to close this school.
The order was handed down on the basis that they have no reasonable prospect of success in any appeal, and no reason why an appeal should be heard.
The Western Cape High Court previously ruled that my decision to close the school in 2017 was lawful.
Indeed, that same court dismissed a prior application for leave to appeal lodged by the SGB on the basis that the High court was of the view there was no prospect of another court coming to a different decision.
Mr Tony Ehrenreich and the applicants nevertheless elected to then petition the SCA for leave to appeal.
This latest ruling by the SCA vindicates me as well as my Department in the actions taken in this matter to date.
In my view the refusal to find that an appeal has any merit, by two courts now, gives credence to the view that Tony Ehrenreich’s motives in attacking me over it are both personal and political, and have no regard for what is in the best interests of the affected and future learners.
Now that the SCA has ruled on this, and dismissed the appeal, I will be holding discussions with the District Officials in the area and will seek legal advice as to what the next steps are with respect to proceeding with the closure of the school in the best interests of the few remaining learners that are still in attendance.
We cannot allow individuals with personal vendettas and agendas to continue to hold our learners and communities hostage.
After years of protracted and costly court battles, where learners were found to be supporting court applications as proxies for political aims, rather than being in the classroom, I really do hope that the decision by the SCA now provides objective clarity on the matter.
Provided that we can now finally close this school without further obstruction, learners can at last be relocated to better schools to receive the quality education that they deserve.
In 2017, I decided to close the school due to decreasing learner numbers, the total state of disrepair which the main building is in, and relentless vandalism and theft at the school.
In addition, learner performance at the school is very low, with the school only achieving a 15.4% pass rate in 2018
With fewer than 100 learners, the school only qualifies for 3 teaching posts to teach 91 learners in 5 different grades, 8 different subjects.
I have been asked why we have not repaired the old school building. Given the low attendance figures, the lack of appreciable growth potential and the severe state of disrepair which the main building is in, the fact that even security guards paid by the WCED have been too scared to go to the school, our teachers are scared, and there are two other schools within a kilometre of this school which can accommodate learners, it would be an irrational and irresponsible decision to expend even more finances, which are severely constrained and under constant pressure, to initiate the building of a completely new replacement school at a current cost of around R60 million to accommodate 91 learners, when they can be accommodated at other better nearby schools.
When I made the decision to close the school, I first ensured that all the learners could be accommodated at alternative schools. The WCED arranged for these learners to be placed at other schools, of which Ravensmead HS was the Department’s preferred choice, and is only just under 1km away.
Another factor that I took into consideration was the issue of gang violence, as I know that there is a prevalence of gang violence in that area. Research revealed that there are more learners from Uitzig in Ravensmead currently than in Uitzig school itself.
I was also assured by officials that a number of learners have moved to other schools and have not experienced any additional gang related issues or danger in this regard.
Given the state of Uitzig High School, I believe it would, in fact, be more dangerous for them to stay there.
The fact is that there have been many learners over the past 4 years who have moved to Ravensmead HS from Uitzig HS out of choice. These learners have integrated well and there have been no reported incidents regarding their safety while walking to and from their new school.
Ravensmead also achieved a 94% matric pass rate.
Educators and learners at Ravensmead HS teach and learn in a safer school environment, with better infrastructure and extra-mural activities and facilities. It remains a beacon of hope and is literally around the corner from Uitzig.