School closures: The public consultation process - how does it work?
School closures form part of the ongoing process of responding to changing needs in education.
These responses include building schools, expanding and replacing schools, and closing schools, if this is in the best interests of the learners.
The South African Schools Act and national and provincial guidelines specify the process that provincial education departments and Provincial Ministers of Education must follow when they consider closing schools.
The process can be summarised as follows:
- The department proposes closures to the Provincial Minister of Education, after carefully analysing education needs.
- The Minister's task is to consider the proposals critically in consultation with affected parties. He starts by consulting SGBs.
- If he decides to take the matter further, he must engage in a full public participation process, in line with national and provincial guidelines.
- The process must include public hearings in terms of Section 33 (2)c of the SA Schools Act.
- Members of the public may make representations at the meetings or in writing via the district office.
- The department collates all representations and provides these to the Minister for consideration.
- The Minister considers every representation carefully before making his final decision, in line with the SA Schools Act.
- The Minister then informs the school governing body of his decision.
The Minister has stated that he will base his decisions on the best interests of the learners concerned.