The Department of Education has officially pronounced its intention to close down 171 and merge a further 312 schools in the province, following the outcome of recent assessment by the department showing a major decrease in learner enrolment at certain schools while others had zero percent enrolment.
During a presser hosted by the department on Tuesday MEC Ishmael Kgetjepe divulged that the department had not finalised the process of closing schools and instead was embarking on the process, which according to him will yield positive results and avail enough resources to merged schools and those that are still operational, anew.
Among the 171 schools are seven that are still operational despite being previously listed for merging, a process halted by communities’ objections, despite the continuous decline in learner enrolment, he explained. Kgetjepe stated that some schools had a zero learner enrolment at the beginning of the 2017 academic year while one other school had only 13 learners.
“The Republic of South Africa has applicable legislations to address challenges of small and non-viable schools. This brings us to the concept of rationalisation of schools which refers to a process of reorganising institutions in order to increase efficiency and reduce waste. The concept in this case is inclusive of both merging and closure of schools in terms of the South African Schools Act,” he explained.
He explained that schools that are unable to deliver on their core mandate, given the resources available at their disposal, are rationalised in terms of the legislation. He added that Limpopo embarked on the merger of schools for the first time in 2008. This serves as the province’s ninth year of giving hope to learners whose schools were to cripple the children’s future by not living up to the expectations of providing the required standard and competitive education,” Kgetjepe stressed.
He further stated that 164 schools in the province have died a natural death since 2003 and due to factors such as zero percent learner enrolment, farm schools having lost learners due to labour migration and schools that offered streams that were not attractive to the majority of learners in their areas.
“Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga made a call to have all small and non-viable schools rationalised and approved the norms and standards for primary and secondary schools to be 135 and 200 respectively. But before the approval, Limpopo had already embarked on the rationalisation of small schools. The criteria for identifying small schools during the 2008/12 merging project was in terms of learner enrolment of less than 50 and during that period the province rationalised a total of 133 schools,” he stated and added that Limpopo further embarked on the second leg of rationalisation of schools during the 2013/14 financial year, of which 301 schools were pronounced on 3 September 2013.
Seventy-five schools in Polokwane circuit will be merged, four in Lebowakgomo, 128 in Sekhukhune, 10 in Mopani, 67 in Vhembe, eight in Mogalakwena and 20 in Waterberg. As for schools that will be closed, Waterberg district has the highest number at 88, Polokwane has 14, Vhembe 12, Mogalakwena 11, Sekhukhune 10, Lebowakgomo and Tzaneen 8 each, Mopani 7, Tshipise Sagole 5 and Riba Cross 1.
Asked what will happen to the facilities, Kgetjepe said the department would turn all the closed schools into something else, such as study centres, or hand over the facilities to the Department of Public Works, Roads and Infrastructure.
Story: ENDY SENYATSI