The Ukubavimba Foundation has joined the provincial ANC and unions to lodge a complaint with the SA Human Rights Commission to hold the Western Cape Education MEC accountable over unplaced pupils.
Cape Town – The Ukubavimba Foundation, a social justice and socio-economic development organisation, has joined the provincial ANC and unions to lodge a complaint with the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to hold Education MEC Debbie Schäfer accountable for the alleged failure of her department to place learners.
Deon Carelse, the member of the foundation who lodged the complaint, said it was on behalf of all parents whose children have not been placed.
He said under the Schools Act and the Constitution, it was a violation of the learners’ rights not to have education.
The complaint comes a week after the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) revealed during a briefing to the standing committee on education in the legislature that there were still more than 6 500 unplaced learners in the province.
That revelation has led the ANC in the Western Cape to approach the SAHRC, the Public Service Commission and the Public Protector in a bid to hold Schäfer accountable.
Yesterday, the ANC, South African Democratic Teachers Union, Congress of South African Trade Unions and the Congress of South African Students held a briefing on the matter.
ANC provincial spokesperson on education Khalid Sayed said the non-placement of learners largely affected schools in working-class communities, where up to 60 learners were often squeezed into a classroom.
Sayed said as of March 8, 6 594 children of compulsory school going age were unplaced in the Western Cape, including 891 Grade 1 learners, 3 024 Grade 8 learners and 2 679 learners in other grades. “To put it bluntly, they are not at school.”
He said the WCED had identified Mitchells Plain, Eerste River, Strand, Delft, Du Noon, Mfuleni, Khayelitsha, Vredenburg, Mossel Bay, Hermanus and Grabouw as the areas mostly affected by the problem of insufficient school capacity.
One of the affected parents, Zanele Racaza from Gugulethu, said she has been up and down looking for a place for her child, who was supposed to start Grade 8 this year.
Racaza said her 15-year-old child has been under severe stress because of not getting a place in schools, though she had applied to three schools early last year.
“I applied online as requested by the department and all three schools declined my application. For the past three weeks, I have been calling the department for assistance. I even went to Metro South District in Maitland, they kept telling me that they will call me after a week and I haven’t received any call till today,” said Racaza.
Schäfer said there were currently 6 000 unplaced learners. Half of those were late applications, mostly made this year, which were impossible to plan for.
Schäfer said they were still receiving new applications daily. She said their districts had done an incredible job in reducing the number of unplaced learners from 13 000 at the beginning of the year, and they would continue working to find a place for every learner.
“We have 19 000 extra learners in our province this year. We simply cannot afford to build, furnish and staff 19 schools this year, and every single year. Our budget continues to decrease in real terms so that the national government can support failing SOEs at the expense of our children,” she said.
Schäfer said the ANC itself should answer to the SAHRC for the continued defunding of the education budget by the National Treasury, for agreeing to unaffordable wage increases for years, and for failing to build and maintain sufficient schools when they were in office.