EASTERN Cape Education MEC Fundile Gade has vowed to shut down just over 1 000 small, unviable schools and the reallocation of learners to larger, better resourced schools in an attempt to improve the quality of education in the province.
Most of the unviable schools are mainly in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal and Limpopo, and are responsible for producing the lowest pass rates during the National Senior Certificate exams.
The need to rationalise schools in the Eastern Cape is pressing, according to Gade.
The Eastern Cape not only inherited a large number of very small schools from the Transkei era, but out-migration to urban centres both within and outside of the province has also made many schools unviable.
Data from 2016, when the (Government Technical Advisory Centre) GTAC project began, shows that close to 50% of schools have fewer than 250 learners, and another 17% have fewer than 100 learners.
“Unviable, small and dysfunctional schools are a threat in the context of quality public education,” said Gade.
Gade spoke to Inside Educationduring an exclusive interview on how his department is using the R700 million that has been allocated to deal with schools with pit latrines and lack of proper sanitation.
“We have exceeded 50 percent of the target that we were allocated, despite the fact that we had a challenge of the lockdown at the beginning of the year, which put the construction on hold,” said Gade.
The MEC said the solution is to build bigger schools in order to get rid of the small ones where learners will be able to get sufficient maintenance and resources.
“Our strategy is that, let’s build bigger schools and reduce the numbers figuratively of schools in the province so that they can get as much resources as possible and utilise them optimally,” said Gade.
The National Education Policy Act Guidelines stipulate a minimum school size of 135 learners at primary level, and 200 learners at secondary school level. If a school has fewer learners than the set minimums, the provincial department may begin to make the case for closing down the school.
In 2018, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said her department needed at least R10 billion to deal with sanitation at schools across the country. In 2019, it was reported that over 1 600 schools in the Eastern Cape needed toilets.
“The department of health has approved 268 schools that must undergo the programme to stabilise infrastructure in the province,” said Gade.
Less than 1 600 of the 5,400 Eastern Cape schools have been red-flagged as having inadequate pit latrine and sanitation structures.
“We are currently in the process of dealing with stabilizing the infrastructure backlogs in the province,” said Gade.
(COMPILED BY INSIDE EDUCATION STAFF)