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Media Release

Tuesday, 28 May, 2002

George cuts power to schools with special education needs

Statement by André Gaum, Western Cape Education Minister

The George Municipality cut power yesterday (Monday, 27 May 2002) to two schools for learners with special education needs, following a dispute over an account for municipal services.

This act was totally inhumane, especially given the special needs of the learners involved.

The institutions affected are the Carpe Diem School, for severely disabled learners, and the Die Bult Youth Care Centre, both in George. They fall under the jurisdiction of the Western Cape Education Department.

The municipality reinstated power late yesterday after strong protests from officials of my department.

I have asked the Mayor of George, Mr Marius Swart, to intervene in this matter. The way the municipality has handled this issue has been totally unacceptable. It must be settled in a responsible manner.

The issue involves interest payments that the George Municipality claims it is owed from between the years 1992 and 1997. My department has asked for itemised proof of these claims, but it has not been forthcoming.

The WCED, which was established in 1995, has paid all service charges for these schools to date, and all interest owed on any late payments since 1997.

The WCED has repeatedly indicated its willingness to pay whatever it may owe. However, we require itemised proof of the claim, in line with standard accounting practice.

Despite the fact that the WCED is still negotiating with this municipality over the matter, the municipality has used the welfare of the learners and staff at these two institutions to obtain leverage in these discussions. This is deplorable.

Carpe Diem caters for 193 learners with "multi-disabilities", namely, those who are severely mentally or physically disabled, or both.

Die Bult Youth Care Centre is a school for children who have been referred to it under the Child Care Act. Some of the learners are serving sentences following court convictions, while others attend daily multi-disciplinary therapeutic and educational programmes after school hours or during weekends. Its present enrolment is 97.

Enquiries: André Gaum 083-550-3938

Issued by:
The Communications Directorate
Western Cape Education Department
Private Bag X9114
Cape Town 8000
Tel: (021) 467-2531
Fax: (021) 467-2363
Email: pattwell@pawc.wcape.gov.za
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