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Western Cape ‘experimental’ schools plan challenged

Western Cape ‘experimental’ schools plan challenged

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Cape Town – The validity of the Western Cape Education Department’s (WCED) collaboration and donor-funded schools, labelled as “experiments and a commodity-type education” by the opposition, is being challenged in the Western Cape High Court.

Major changes to the Western Cape education law were made in 2016 through the Western Cape Provincial School Education Amendment Act of 2018.

This paved the way for the introduction of two new types of public schools: collaboration and donor-funded (DFSs) schools.

Education advocacy group, Equal Education (EE), has now taken the department to court, arguing that donors and private entities would have significant control over the schools in a way that undermined the principles of democratic governance and accountability.

It claims the Act was inconsistent with the Constitution and in conflict with the South African Schools Act (SASA).

“EE’s case is that provisions of the Act concerning collaborations schools, DFSs and intervention facilities are invalid. It therefore asks this court to make a just and equitable order under section 172(1)(b) of the Constitution. The provisions in the Act governing collaboration schools, DFSs and intervention facilities conflict with the SASA Act 84 of 1996, which is national legislation that Parliament enacted to give effect to the constitutional right to a basic education. EE’s case is that the conflict must be resolved in favour of SASA, in terms of section 146 of the Constitution. The Act’s relevant provisions must therefore be rendered inoperative,” EE said.

The organisation said while it was not opposed to testing innovative education models, it recognised that experimentation in education was a sensitive undertaking.

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, have also been added as respondents in the case which started on Wednesday and is expected to continue on Thursday.

Education MEC David Maynier said EE was opposing access to high quality no-fee education available to over 12 300 pupils in poor communities.

According to Maynier, when the legal action was instituted, the collaboration schools were getting off the ground.

“Our collaboration school donors have contributed to the value of over R325 million to our schools to date, a contribution to our education sector that might otherwise not have been made. Of the schools using the model, 10 are new schools, offering over 8 300 no-fee school places to learners. We are generally seeing a positive trend in systemic test and matric results at these schools, but this is not the only reason the model is valuable,” said Maynier.

ANC education MPL Khalid Sayed said they opposed the Western Cape Provincial Schools Education Bill on the grounds that collaboration schools and donor-funded schools were a form of commodification of education in the province and were in violation of the SASA.

“Moreover, we criticised and rejected the sale of alcohol in schools which was introduced through these amendments. The ANC wishes Equal Education and other key stakeholders well in this case against the uncaring WCED,” said Sayed.

Cape Times

Original Article

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