15 April 2021
Media Statement: Forest Village learners remain unplaced, despite MEC claiming that half of the learners are in school
The Equal Education Law Centre acting on behalf of the parents of the learners attending Empumelelweni Primary School “makeshift school’’ are disappointed at the Western Cape Education MEC’s inaccurate statement about actions taken to remedy the issue.
In a statement released on 13 April 2021, MEC Debbie Schäfer notes that the WCED has found a school for all the learners currently learning under the trees. The statement further states that “The WCED has been contacting parents over the past week to make offers of placement and that half of the learners have already been placed at schools, that the department is still struggling to contact some of the parents of the remaining learners, who have provided incorrect contact numbers or whose phones go to voicemail”.
To date, the EELC can confirm that of the 104 parents of learners attending the makeshift school (that EELC is assisting) only five (5) parents have been contacted by the WCED offering parents placement in schools. The numbers at the school grow by the day, as more parents in surrounding areas continue to enrol their unplaced children – the MEC’s statement thus, does not correspond with what parents are currently experiencing.
The province is currently facing an admissions issue, one that has been brewing for years. This is confirmed by the MECs statement, wherein she acknowledges the ongoing pressure that the department has been experiencing. While the Forest Village matter falls within the admissions crisis, it does have a special component to it which is linked to spatial planning justice.
We cannot accept the shifting of responsibilities pertaining to learner placement by the WCED solely onto parents. Remedying the learner placement crisis at Empumelelweni Primary and the broader admissions crisis requires clear communication, collaboration and cooperation.
There is a need for the WCED to take due accountability for poor planning, to address what they have highlighted as a seasonal/yearly issue. We have in the past raised concerns about the continuous issue of admissions, as it remains one of the major issues at the start of each academic year. In 2020, we addressed a letter to the MEC highlighting that, admissions have been a provincial issue for years and the subsequent likelihood of COVID-19 exacerbating the issue. We requested that the WCED provide us with plans in anticipation of this influx.
While we note that there are budget constraints, this does not absolve the MEC of her statutory responsibility to ensure that there are enough schools in the province and that all learners are placed in age-appropriate schools.
We ask that the WCED swiftly address the current predicament of thousands of learners still awaiting placement in April – It is crucial that learners are prioritised.
Note to editors: If quoting directly from this statement, please quote The Equal Education Law Centre (EELC).
To arrange a media interview, contact:
Tad Khosa (EELC Media and Communications Coordinator) 081 346 0180 firstname.lastname@example.org