Children can’t get into Cape Town schools, court hears

But there’s good news for seven children who are part of the case brought by the Equal Education Law Centre. They will start school next week.

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Parents of seven unplaced learners leave the Western Cape High Court with advocates from the Equal Education Law Centre on Friday. During proceedings it was announced that the provincial education department has since found them placement and the learners are to start school on Monday. Photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

  • Seven unplaced learners in the Western Cape Department of Education’s Metro East District are expected to start school on Monday for the first time this year.
  • This follows an application brought by the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) in the High Court.
  • EELC asked the court to grant an interim order, requiring the education department to report on steps taken to help all unplaced learners. This will include placing adverts inviting unplaced learners to come to the district’s office to register for 2022.
  • Judge Patric Gamble said he would deliver his judgment in writing in five days.

The parents of seven unplaced learners celebrated on the steps of the Western Cape High Court on Friday following news that their children are to start school on Monday.

The group, represented by the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC), brought the matter against the Education Department MEC, head of department and the Director of the Metro East Education District for not ensuring that all learners have placement at schools in the district.

The application also highlights what they believe to be the Metro East district’s repeated failure to fulfil its statutory and constitutional obligation to appropriately place all learners.

During proceedings, advocate Ewald De Villiers-Jansen, for the department, told the court that all of the learners named in the litigation have since been allocated places and can now start school for the first time this year.

But EELC’s Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi argued that the swift placement of the seven learners was only “triggered by the litigation” and that it addressed “just a fraction” of a larger school placement problem in the province.

He said more parents and unplaced learners who have been turned away by district offices, are coming to the centre for assistance and that the list “continues to grow”.

Ngcukaitobi then asked the court to grant an interim order to require the education department to report on steps taken to help all unplaced learners. He also asked that a survey be done to determine the exact number of unplaced learners within the district which includes Khayelitsha, Mfuleni, Strand, Kraaifontein and Kuilsriver. The department is to place an advert in local newspapers, radio stations and signage boards informing all parents and caregivers of unplaced learners to visit the district offices to register for the 2022 academic year.

“We are dealing here with an extreme situation of children who are not in school. We are dealing with learners who come with the disadvantage of their socio-economic background coupled with the impact of Covid learning losses,” said Ngcukaitobi.

In response to the recommendation that adverts be placed on various platforms, De Villiers-Jansen said that the department had previously placed adverts in local newspapers, distributed pamphlets at primary and pre-schools and paid for billboard advertisements in malls.

De Villiers-Jansen said doing the adverts again would impact the department’s budget and didn’t guarantee that learners in need of placement would come forward.

Judge Patric Gamble told De Villiers-Jansen that the cost to place the adverts wouldn’t “break the bank”.

Judge Gamble said he would deliver his judgment in writing in five days.

Outside court, parents were jubilant. Promise Mhlululwa from Khayelitsha said his daughter had been rejected from five schools in the area. “I approached the department but they did not help until now. It was painful for me to go to work, leaving her at home while I know she should be at school studying. I can’t wait for Monday. I’m so happy,” he said.

TOPICS:  Education

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