Tuesday, 17 January 2017
Following a complaint received from a member of the Mfuleni community about learners who had not been accommodated in schools, and concerned by media reports that thousands of learners had not yet been accommodated in other schools in the Western Cape SAHRC Commissioners Andre Gaum and Chris Nissen met with Western Cape Provincial Education Minister, Ms Debbie Schafer, this morning (17th January 2017).
The SAHRC is a state institution established in terms of Chapter 9 of the Constitution of South Africa to support constitutional democracy and is mandated in terms of section 184 (1) (a-c) of the Constitution to “promote respect, monitor, and assess the observance of human rights in South Africa”.
The complaint lodged with the SAHRC indicated that more than two thousand learners were not being accommodated in the Mfuleni area. Based on the complaint, Commissioner Nissen conducted a site inspection and found that the number has been reduced to 773. Commissioner Nissen further reported to the Provincial Minister that school principals, with the assistance of the Mfuleni Education Forum - a broad based community forum - have agreed to accommodate learners who have not yet been placed. The Forum encouraged over-aged learners (who had also not been accommodated) to enroll with further education and training (FET) colleges to complete their education.
The Minister reported to Commissioners Gaum and Nissen that the initial number of unaccommodated learners in the Province has now been reduced from more than 18 000 to 7 900 learners. The Minister outlined the province’s plans to accommodate the unplaced learners in existing schools by the end of January 2017.
The Provincial Minister has agreed to report to the WC office of the SAHRC on a weekly basis as to progress being made to accommodate unplaced learners in the WC in schools. The Provincial Minister has further committed to providing contingency plans, to prevent a re-occurrence of the non-accommodation of learners in 2018, to the SAHRC. The SAHRC, through Commissioner Gaum, will monitor progress being made by the Western Cape Education Department on a regular basis.
Recognising the progress that has been made in accommodating learners in schools, the SAHRC is nonetheless concerned about the effect this will have on the learner/teacher ratio. In some instances, this ratio, has reached 45 teachers: 1 learner. This is of concern to the Commission, as it has a direct impact on the quality of education received by learners.
The right to basic education, as outlined in Section 29 of the Constitution, goes beyond the right to access to basic education and includes the right to quality education. In pursuit of its mandate, the SAHRC intends monitoring the learner/teacher ratio in schools.
The SAHRC also wishes to appeal to the parents of learners to ensure that they meet enrollment deadlines and that they endeavor to get their children accommodated in existing spaces in schools, even when these schools might not be their first preference. Acting within this constitutionally entrenched mandate, the SAHRC will continue to monitor and ensure that the right to basic education is realised.
Issued by the South African Human Rights Commission