Judge sets deadline for Western Cape Education Department to find schools for seven learners

Equal Education Law Centre inundated with requests from desperate parents of unplaced learners

By Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

8 June 2022

Parents of seven learners who have not found places in school leave the Western Cape High Court with advocates from the Equal Education Law Centre two weeks ago. Archive photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

The Western Cape High Court has instructed the Western Cape Education Department’s Metro East district to get seven unplaced learners into schools by Friday.

Two weeks ago, the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) brought a case against the deputy director of the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) and the Metro East district officials for failing to find schools for seven learners from Khayelitsha and surrounding areas.

During proceedings, advocate Ewald De Villiers-Jansen for the department told the Court that the department had found places for all seven unplaced learners and that they would start school by the following Monday. But this was not the case. When GroundUp followed up with EELC last week, the organisation reported that only three of the seven learners were attending school.

On Friday, Judge Patrick Gamble delivered a written ruling, giving the department five days to place all the learners named in the case. Judge Gamble ordered that the learners be offered academic and psychosocial support and a catch-up plan.

He also told the department to take “all reasonable and necessary steps” to place other learners in the same situation who might make themselves known to EELC.

He told the department to circulate a notice on local radio stations and newspapers within seven working days, inviting parents and caregivers of other learners in the Metro East District, who had not been placed in school, to approach the department for assistance by 29 June 2022.

Since the start of the court battle, Equal Education Law Centre says, it has been inundated with requests from parents and caregivers desperately looking for places for their children.

Equal Education’s Daphne Erosi told GroundUp that EE had a list of at least 78 parents or caregivers in Khayelitsha whose children have not been placed in schools this academic year. She said some learners had been waiting for two years to be placed at school. “It’s so sad. I wish you could see these frustrated parents when they come here, crying because they have lost hope of ever finding schools for their children,” said Erosi.

In a statement, EELC welcomed the High Court ruling. The organisation said it planned to return to court in November to ask the court to direct the WCED to fulfil its constitutional obligation to manage and plan for the admission and registration of all learners at ordinary public schools for 2023.

“We also seek to have the failure to take a decision on the placement of the seven learners, and other similarly placed learners, in 2022 declared unconstitutional and unlawful and to have it reviewed,” said EELC in its statement.

EELC executive director Tshegofatso Phala said learners in Metro East, which includes Khayelitsha, Kraaifontein, Strand, Macassar, Somerset West and Kuilsriver, are greatly affected.

“We are hopeful that this court application will contribute towards the proper recording of unplaced learners within the WCED and inform better planning.”