The Difference between Fact and Fiction: School Closures
It is no surprise that the ANC has demonstrated its inability to understand issues of education management and provision. They have once again reduced these issues to crude race and party politics.
None of the issues highlighted by them in their statement stands up to even the most superficial interrogation.
For instance, the claim that the DA has closed more schools than it has built.
The fact is that we have built more schools than we have closed. In fact, we are building more schools with greater capacity and better facilities for more learners than the schools that have been closed by this administration to date. To say the DA-run Western Cape Government has closed more schools than it has opened is simply not true.
The minister has closed 15 schools during his tenure. The majority of these schools had low and dwindling learner numbers, and involved only 1 231 learners from the 15 schools.
In the same period, from 2010, the WCED had completed the building of 31 new and replacement schools, therefore making provision for the accommodation of an additional 27 000 learners in new schools and 9 600 learners at replacement facilities. A total of 36 000 places.
The WCED expects to complete the building of 16 additional new schools and replacement schools in the 2012/2013 financial year.
Once these schools have been completed, the WCED will have built 47 new schools (accommodating approximately 30 000 additional learners) and replacement schools (accommodating approximately 27 000 learners). This is a total of 57 000 places in all.
The ANC is not only guilty of false claims, but is also hypocritical, given that they closed 47 schools between 2002 and 2007, building only 42 during the same period.
The rest of the ANC statement is even more inaccurate than that.
We invite you to read an extract of the minister's speech on school closures which highlights and exposes the hypocrisy and false claims of the ANC's opposition to school closures.
Extract from a Speech by Minister Donald Grant Delivered in the Western Cape Provincial Legislature
26 July 2012.
Let me make our position clear.
We focus on the best interests of our learners. Our young people are at the heart of our school system and all its planning and resources. We are not infallible but important indicators show that we do get it right most of the time.
The ANC chooses to play politics of the crudest kind instead of concerning itself with the life chances of our young people. It is difficult - in the face of the steady stream of misinformation produced by certain ANC leaders and the reality of the ruthless limitations placed on young lives in provinces like Limpopo and the Eastern Cape - to believe that the opposition cares about children and their education rights at all.
We care about children and will do all we can to improve the quality of what is available in the public school system. Part of that is the constant re-evaluation of the size and shape of the system. This may include the closure of schools.
Riddled with hypocrisy and false claims, the ANC's opposition to school closures is mindless and misleading.
It is hard to believe the cries of the ANC on the issue of school closures when you consider that the very power of Provincial Ministers of Education to close non-viable public schools was included in national legislation and national guidelines developed and passed by the ANC and adhered to by the law-abiding government of the Western Cape.
Furthermore, how can the ANC opposition to the school closures in this province be believed when school closures are by no stretch of the imagination unique to the Western Cape? Does the ANC need to be reminded of the thousands of schools that it has closed across the country over the last 12 years (including schools in this province)? The facts speak for themselves.
To date, ANC-led governments across the country have closed thousands of public schools, many of which affected children in the poorest of communities. If you read this week's Sunday Times you would have seen that since 2 000 ANC-led governments across the country have closed down more than 1 100 schools in the Free State, more than 640 schools in North West, more than 590 schools in the Eastern Cape, approximately 215 schools in Mpumalanga, more than 110 schools in the Northern Cape and more than 170 schools in Limpopo. That works out to an average of at least 238 school closures per year across the six provinces mentioned. In yesterday's Cape Argus it was reported that 47 schools alone were closed in this province between 2002 and 2007 when the ANC governed this province. Again, the hypocrisy of the ANC is exposed.
Just as the 27 schools in this province are being considered for possible closure because of dwindling learner numbers, ageing infrastructure and/or persistent underperformance, many of the more than 4 000 schools closed by the ANC to date were closed because they too experienced drops in learner numbers, persistently poor pass rates and inadequate school facilities.
The ANC is clearly trying to score cheap political points without realising the irony or vulnerability of their position. In this province, we are carefully and meticulously following the law to ensure that the communities concerned have every opportunity to voice their support for or opposition to any of the proposed school closures. I have made it very clear that a concern raised is a concern that will be carefully considered by me before any final decision is taken. I have taken and will continue to take the issue of school closures very seriously and would welcome as many views as possible before making my final decision.
We need to take the ANC's opposition to school closures in the Western Cape to its logical end. If we simply were to stop the school closure process which is currently underway in respect of each of the 27 schools being considered for possible closure (as the ANC so desperately wants), the Western Cape Government would effectively be condemning the Western Cape's school system to its past despite shifts in the needs and realities of the people of the Western Cape. Surely no education department worth its salt can in its school provisioning plan ignore shifts in learner numbers, ageing infrastructure and persistent poor performance? Each time the ANC closes a school in any other province it presumably says it does so in the best interests of the learners. But when the DA-run government moves to consider a handful of schools for possible closure on the basis that this too would be in the best interests of our learners, the move is condemned by the ANC as racist, careless and not in the best interests of learners. Again, the hypocrisy of the ANC on this issue is clear for all to see.
The hypocrisy of the ANC runs deeper still. A claim by the ANC that becomes stronger as the party becomes more desperate towards the 2014 general elections is that the DA-run Western Cape Government does not spend sufficiently on the poorer members of the province. We need only read the weekly papers to see the failures of ANC-led provincial education departments to provide schools serving some of the country's poorest communities in other provinces like Limpopo and the Eastern Cape with access to learner support materials (including textbooks and chairs), electricity, water facilities and toilets.
Again, if the ANC had applied its mind to what we are doing in the province to support our most vulnerable learners, it would know that 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, school security 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 on 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 exams 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%.
The ANC continues to cry wolf when it says that the DA-run Western Cape Government has closed more schools than it has opened. If the ANC had done its calculations properly, it would know that to date we have completed the building of 23 new schools and replaced eight schools originally built of inappropriate materials (typically during apartheid) and have closed only 15 schools to date. If the ANC had done its homework, it would know that we are currently building a further three new schools and 13 replacement schools. By 2014, we will have built 26 new schools accommodating approximately 30 000 additional learners and 21 replacement schools accommodating 27 000 learners. In fact, we are building more schools with greater capacity and better facilities for more learners than the schools that have been closed by this administration to date. To say the DA-run Western Cape Government has closed more schools than it has opened is simply not true.
The ANC continues to mislead the public by making a number of absurd and equally false claims regarding why we close schools. It is quite simple: we close schools to improve opportunities for learners by placing them in schools that are better equipped to provide quality education. Schools are not closed to improve the matric pass rate in the province, as the ANC frequently suggests. Having had much experience in closing thousands of schools across the country (including schools in this province), the ANC should know that no school should be closed unless the learners and teachers affected can be suitably placed at other schools. School closures can therefore not in any way be used to doctor the matric pass rate.
The ANC also argues that by closing schools in areas where gangsterism is rife we are putting the learners concerned at risk or that by closing schools learners have to pay for transport to get to their new school. If the ANC fully understood the legal requirements applicable to school closures they would know that the safety and transport needs of learners are carefully considered by me before any final decision is taken to close a school. My final decision to close a public school can only be made once I have followed the legally prescribed public participation requirements and carefully applied my mind to all representations received.
This government demonstrates time and again that it cares about children and will do all that it can to improve the quality of what is available in the public school system.
With the ANC's mindless opposition to school closures in the Western Cape coupled with their failure to provide thousands of learners across the country - particularly in Limpopo and the Eastern Cape - with the support and resources they so desperately need, it is difficult to believe that the opposition in this province cares about children and their education rights at all.