Bhisho to close 2 000 ‘unviable’ schools

The Bhisho government will next year press ahead with its plan to close down more than 2000 “unviable” schools.

Announcing this during an exclusive interview with the Dispatch at the weekend, premier Phumulo Masualle said records showed that the schools to be closed had fewer than 200 learners each.

“We have high schools, for heaven’s sake, with only seven learners! How do you deal with that situation? How do you run a high school with seven learners? How many educators can you have there?” he said.

“In terms of the new distribution models, you can only have one teacher there. One-teacher schools are not viable because there is no one teacher that can teach all these learning areas.

“Actually, these kids are really being deprived of quality education.”

The provincial government had resolved to build four boarding schools for pupils left without schools by the implementation of the plan.

Masualle said the executive council had resolved to “take these learners to areas where you create the necessary quantum for sustainability”.

The premier compared Gauteng’s 2.2 million pupils attending fewer than 3000 schools with the Eastern Cape’s 1.6 million learners attending about 6000 schools, and said keeping open schools in the Eastern Cape with small numbers of pupils was not sustainable.

“Fine, they are a smaller province, geographically, than us. But we have 1.6 million learners and close to 6000 schools and of that, more than 2000 are schools which have less than 200 learners. Other have less than 10 learners, which is ridiculous.”

Education spokesman Loyiso Pulumani was unable to source updated data on which schools had fewer than 10 pupils, because officials responsible for data capture were on holiday. But he said the last time he checked schools with fewer than 10 pupils were mostly farm schools.

“I was asking the education MEC , how do you come and reason with me when a policy says ‘do away with schools that have less than 200 learners’ but you are keeping thousands of them. More than 2000 of them are of that size and you have to have educators for all these learners. We are saying do away with these schools,” said Masualle.

“It’s something that I think we have allowed for too long without being very firm on it. We have to move. That’s one thing we have to be decisive and aggressive on.”

The province has been at the bottom of the matric class for several years, despite recording a marginal improvement in 2014. The provincial matric pass rate for 2014 was 65.4%, up from 64.9% in 2013.

One of the province’s worst performing schools is Impey Siwisa in the Fort Beaufort district, where the school’s two 2014 matric pupils failed, repeating the school’s 2013 zero percent pass rate.

Masualle said the executive council had instructed the education department to build hostels “so that you can have learners drawn into a hostel environment to create viable schools by adequately resourcing those schools”.

“We cannot continue with the state we are in where there is a school structure but no learners.”

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