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Media Release

26 November, 2007

Report on West Coast schools inquiry into allegation of racism and access to education

Earlier this year I have established a Task Team to conduct an inquiry into various issues in the West Coast municipal area, including allegations of racism, access, transport, school fees and provisioning, after hearing complaints from members of the public and children not attending school at the beginning of this year.

The Task Team had the following brief:

  • investigate allegations of racism at Vredenburg High School where learners from St Helena Bay complained of certain specific comments; investigate and advise on school fees at relevant schools;
  • look at utilization of available space and provisioning issues within the relevant region, including learner transport and its effectiveness;
  • ensure that any learner still not in school, is suitably placed as soon as possible;
  • review pass and failure rates of Grade 10 learners for the period 2005 - 2006 at the Vredenburg High School, with special reference to the learners from the Laingville area; and
  • review relevant teacher and learner portfolios at Vredenburg High School.

The Task Team met with all role-players and high school representatives; and analyzed and advised me on further steps. I can now report as follows.

It seems clear from the report that the delay in placing learners suitably at schools makes it easier for the community to ascribe the exclusion of their children to a myriad of other reasons.

If schools exclude learners for whatever reasons, the WCED should confront and mediate the situation immediately. At the same time the parents should be encouraged to apply early to schools for admission.

The Task Team has recommended intensive work on diversity management, which I accept and endorse strongly. As with schools elsewhere, a service provider should be appointed to deal with diversity management with both learners and educators. Monitoring mechanisms should be put in place to evaluate progress. The training programmes should include learners and staff in hostels.

Vredenburg High School must be submitted to a 'Discrimination Audit' - one similar to the one that has been recommended by the Human Rights Commission (HRC) in other similar cases.

The results of such an audit can either confirm or reject the perceptions of racism; and it can be used as a point of departure for the school in terms of the nature and degree/intensity of diversity training programmes. The results can also serve as a baseline to measure/evaluate future progress on diversity management at the school.

The finalisation of the Education Provisioning Plan will have to address the problem of infrastructure. It cannot be left to SGBs or SMTs alone to manage. Weston High School for example, is overcrowded and the numbers need to be managed down.

An even spread of learners to all schools will have to be secured. The provisioning plan will also have to address the issue of language, because little provision is made for the accommodation of the increased growth of African learners.

We acknowledge that the determination of school fees is the legal responsibility of SGBs, the Task Team however has requested that SGBs peg their school fees at a level that is reasonable and affordable to the community. Furthermore, SGBs must follow procedure to inform parents of their rights to apply for full or partial exemption.

The WCED's West Coast/Winelands District Office will monitor the transport of learners and if required, steps need to be taken against any service provider who does not comply to contract conditions.

The high failure rate of entry level learners in high schools is a clear indication that most learners are under- or unprepared, hence, certain strategies and interventions are necessary to remedy the situation.

Learners who are not yet capable of demonstrating the expected outcomes in literacy and numeracy at the completion of a grade should be allowed more time, especially in the early grades, with the condition that they need to be sufficiently supported at all times.

The Department/School Management Team (SMT) needs to ensure that teachers are adequately qualified when appointed for the grades they will be teaching. Curriculum advisors and circuit managers must also monitor whether teachers are ready to teach the grades assigned to them by the SMT.

Further, intensified curriculum support training and development for primary school teachers in general, but to grades 8 & 9 teachers specifically, is recommended. This training could be effected through the Cape Teaching Institute (CTI).

A curriculum team should visit each primary school at least once a term, to render support on assessment shortcomings in order to strengthen teachers' assessment skills.

One of the shortcomings identified, is the lack of meaningful feedback to learners on projects and assignments. Learners must receive feedback on projects and assignments as a remedial step to enable them to engage the teacher on the shortcomings of their projects and assignments. This feedback can serve as a valuable educational process, which will assist learners in their approach to ensuing projects or assignments.

A strategy needs to be developed to assist parents and empower them to properly support their children. The District Office, in consultation with the St Helena Bay Crisis Committee, must mobilise the community in order to start a community education support initiative.

Special focus should be placed on the development of literacy and numeracy skills. A strong local emphasis on Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) centres and Early Childhood Development (ECD) could help with a strong emphasis on family literacy.

We will continue to involve all interested parties in drawing up and reviewing school policies. It is important for us to set up clear procedures for dealing with allegations of racism and diversity management.

The goal of Government is to have all schools as democratic entities, which apply the employment equity formulae. Staff at schools must reflect the demographics of the learners.

Schools for the previously privileged must open their doors to all. Learner enrolments need to reflect societal demographics. Schools need to recognise diversity as a strength and set up all tiers in the school accordingly - learner enrolment, staffing, SGBs, RCLs - all of these should broadly reflect representivity and inclusiveness.

Schools must use the contents of the curriculum itself to help nurture change in values and attitudes. The Life Orientation curriculum, the Social Sciences curriculum and the Languages curriculum all offer learning programmes to help learners tackle issues of diversity, prejudice and difference.

The learner bodies will be encouraged to lead steps to move away from racism to reconciliation. Sport and cultural activities should be strengthened to help promote the shedding of differences and the building of shared goals.

For enquiries, contact Gert Witbooi:  082 550 3938, or gwitbooi@pgwc.gov.za.

Issued by:
Gert Witbooi
Media Liaison Officer
Office of the MEC for Education
Western Cape
Tel: 021 467 2523
Fax: 021 425 5689

Visit our website: http://wced.wcape.gov.za

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2007 WCED