The IFP in KwaZulu-Natal is calling on the Department of Education to facilitate community consultations with all the schools impacted by the plan to close over 900 schools in KZN. MEC Frazer must be led to comprehend the importance of her current responsibility of safeguarding the future of millions of learners.
Public participation and consultation cannot be reduced to merely making information public.
It is therefore disappointing to witness government making pronouncements – without details of how public participation will occur. An important way in which communities, particularly traditional communities, participate in government decision-making is through traditional authorities.
The Department must therefore ensure they consult with Amakhosi, as opposed to simply announcing plans that impact them. Ward committees also provide a structured model for public consultation and participation, and we suggest the Department also make use of these structures.
It is reported that the rationale for closing the 900 schools is low enrolment rates.
The IFP is deeply concerned, as closing down these schools will force hundreds – if not thousands – of learners to walk long distances to school. In the same vein, this will also make it challenging for parents, especially in rural areas, who will need to travel long distances to attend parents’ meetings or to assess the child’s performance and attend school governing body meetings.
The IFP is further concerned that the bulk of these 900 schools earmarked for closure are rural schools.
With government doing very little, if nothing at all, to ensure that schools in rural areas are fully resourced, efficiently run and well taken care of, it is only to be expected that their enrolment levels will be low. Staff and teachers working in rural schools are not well compensated and this leads to many educators migrating to better schools, leaving the poorest performing rural schools without well-qualified teachers.
The IFP calls on the Department to invest in developing and equipping schools in rural areas, rather than closing them down. More teachers must also be employed from the ever-growing pool of unemployed educators and graduates. This will ensure that parents do not transfer their children to better performing schools.
In addition, the District Development Model compels the Department to consult and plan with municipalities where schools are located. Local government would have made considerable effort to bring some services, such as sanitation, water, and electricity to schools, particularly in rural areas. Closing these schools be reducing the money spent to fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
It is not new for the ANC-led government to close down institutes of learning. When the ANC took over KZN, they closed the Teacher Training Colleges, built under the stewardship of the IFP Founder and President Emeritus Prince, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, to develop the black child.
Thousands of schools are still dealing with the effects of the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) predicament, which still leaves many unanswered questions. There seems to be a glowing instability within the Department of Education, under the leadership of MEC Mbali Frazer.
As the IFP, we wish to remind the MEC that education is a hard-won constitutional right, and we would not want these school closures to infringe upon the rights of learners.
Cllr Thami Ntuli
IFP KZN Provincial Chairperson
072 585 5000