MEC Sets Record Straight on Lagunya Finishing School
There has been a great deal of misinformation and politicisation of this issue which is deeply regrettable.
Let me say at the outset, that the final decision on Lagunya's future will be guided by only what is in the best interests of the students, teachers, the taxpayer and the integrity of the education system in this province.
It is important to note that this issue goes back as far as 1996, when the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) inherited three so-called finishing schools from the previous dispensation. These schools were established to accommodate students that were over school going age, as well as students who had failed their matric examinations based on the old curriculum.
Two of the three schools have now been closed by previous administrations, and Lagunya is the only such facility left in the country.
In the current education framework, as set by national norms and standards, there is no provision for a school to operate as a finishing school. The post-provisioning model, which determines educator staffing to schools, does not provide for finishing schools, neither does the allocation of norms and standards.
It is for these reasons that an application was made on the 6th of August 2005, for the closure of Lagunya on the 31st December 2005.
On 12 December 2005, the then MEC for Education in the Western Cape, Cameron Dugmore, did not approve the closure of the school. He recommended that the school should function only until the 31st of December 2006 and that an ABET centre should be established in the building of Lagunya.
On the 13th of January 2006, MEC Dugmore informed the School Governing Body (SGB) of Lagunya of his intention to close the school officially on the 31st of December 2006. He also indicated that the last intake of students should be in 2006.
He informed them that he delegated the establishment of a full time ABET centre to the WCED. However, this decision was not followed through and the school was allowed to continue function as a finishing school since.
In January 2009, the SGB approached MEC Yousuf Gabru in order to lobby for the school's continual operation. It is unclear what the previous MEC undertook to do. I was appointed three months later in April 2009.
This issue was first brought to my attention on the 23rd of June 2009, when I made a courtesy visit to the school. I met with representatives of the SGB and the various district officials.
Since then, I have given this matter a great deal of attention.
In September 2009, I gave, in principle, approval for the closure of Lagunya Finishing School on the 31 December 2009.
In a letter dated 3 September 2009, addressed to the SGB, I requested them to discuss the proposed closure of the school in terms of section 33 (2)(b) of the SA Schools Act, whereby, the member of the executive council "granted the governing body of the school a reasonable opportunity to make representations to him, or her, in relation to such action."
The minutes of the SGB meeting had to be forwarded to my office before, or on the 30th of September 2009. After numerous attempts to obtain such minutes, the governing body faxed a letter instead of the minutes.
A public hearing was also held in terms of section 33 (2)(c) of the SA Schools Act, whereby, a member of the executive council "conducts a public hearing on reasonable notice, to enable the community to make representations to him, or her, in relation to such actions."
That public meeting was held at Lagunya on the 11th of October 2009.
I am currently reviewing the representations that arose from the public hearing, and the case made by the SGB for Lagunya's continued operation.
Section 18 of the Western Cape Provincial School Education Act, Act 12 1997, read with Section 33(1) of the SA School's Act, provides for a member of the executive council the power by notice in the provincial gazette to close a public school.
It is in terms of this provision that I will make my final decision on the future of the school.
However, there are also a number of education specific factors that will inform my final decision.
Firstly, as referred to above, the national model for schooling does not make provision for finishing schools.
Secondly, the costs incurred to maintain the school are large. The WCED pays R55 000 a month in rental alone.
Thirdly, the teachers are underutilised. They do not have a full time-table as do other teachers, and once the full-time matriculants start writing; these teachers have no work as they teach only teach Grade 12 students. There is also no way in which the WCED can hold these teachers accountable because the students are writing one or two subjects register as private candidates.
Finally, attendance at this school is erratic, and the results are generally not encouraging.
For instance, in June 2009, of the 1 429 entries, only 818 candidates wrote the examinations. 42.4% did not write their examinations, and only 54 candidates wrote 6 subjects or more. Only 42.59% (23) of the candidates writing six subjects or more, passed their exams.
I would like to give the unequivocal assurance that should Lagunya be closed, it will have no detrimental affect on any student at that facility.
Every student of a school-going age would be accommodated at neighboring Langa schools, which are currently underutilised. Any student above the school-going age would be incorporated into an ABET centre. They can also apply at private/FET colleges. Let me be clear, closing down the school will not prejudice their examinations next year. If a student is registered to write, he or she, will still be able to write at a designated examination centre.
Further, the full time educators currently employed at Lagunya will have their posts re-allocated to schools, where they would teach at other high schools where scarcities in certain subjects exist.
I would like to acknowledge the role that Lagunya has played in the past, and call on all affected individuals and organisations to desist from politicising this issue, or using it as a convenient excuse to break the law.
My final decision on Lagunya's possible closure will be made only in Mid-December. Under no circumstances, will my decision in any way be affected by the actions of a thuggish minority.
This administration will never shy away from its responsibility to take decisions in the best interests of the one million learners we have in our care.
Ministry for Education
Cell: 072 724 1422
Tel: 021 467 2377