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Media Release

8 March, 2007

Task Team to probe Saldanha school issues

Statement by Cameron Dugmore, MEC for Education in the Western Cape

Western Cape Education MEC Cameron Dugmore today announced a Task Team that will investigate and offer recommendations on various issues in schools in the Saldanha municipal area, including allegations of racism, access, transport, school fees and provisioning.

The Task Team was established after MEC Dugmore was invited by the community of Laingville in St Helena Bay earlier, to hear complaints of school-going children not attending school at the beginning of this year.

The Task Team, headed by the MECís Advisor Archie Lewis, has 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 (in the region);

  • 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.

A community meeting arranged earlier by a local community grouping, calling themselves the "Education Crisis Committee" leveled various allegations against some schools in the region.

The meeting was attended by 500 parents, learners, teachers, principals and senior officials of the WCED; as well as local MP Maxwell Moss, MPL Mathilda Vantura, councilors and the media.

Parents expressed alarm at the large numbers of learners from certain areas not performing at a certain standard at some schools due to unconducive environment. Many children have difficulty getting into a school of choice; there are varying fee structures and transport services are indifferent for learners from poor communities.

Although the majority of concerns raised were about Vredenburg High School, the concern was also more widespread and related to education and access to opportunity in the area in general.

MEC Dugmore acknowledged the concerns of the community and agreed to an immediate intervention. He said priority would be given to the West Coast in developing an Integrated Education Development Plan. This plan needs to address issues of Tranformation, Language Policy including Multilingualism and the starting of a process to investigate the feasibility of a high school for St Helena Bay.

The ad hoc Task Team will include senior officials from the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), members of the local "Education Crisis Committee", representatives of the school governing bodies of all high schools, a parent, councillor and teacher unions.

The MEC has the authority to include any other members onto the Task Team as he deems fit. The Task Team has the mandate to call upon the expertise of any WCED official in the execution of its mandate.

MEC Dugmore has made it clear that the investigation will be transparent and open, and that there will be no victimization. The investigation is to be conducted in the spirit of promoting reconciliation and appreciation of diversity, within the confines of the law and the Constitution of the country.

The Task Team may call on other bodies to assist the process e.g. SAPS, Human Rights Commission etc. The media will be excluded in the process, except in the case of public hearings.

The process will commence as soon as possible, and re-assessment of relevant teacher and learner portfolios must be completed within two weeks. The entire process to be completed by no later than the end of March 2007, subject to the fact that the MEC and the Task Team have satisfied themselves that it has fulfilled its mandate sufficiently.

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

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