ECape farm schools take education minister to court over closure threats

MARCH 31, 2016

Four farm schools facing closure, as well as the Centre for Child Law (CCL), have launched an urgent application in the Grahamstown High Court to interdict the Minister of Basic Education and the Eastern Cape department of education from shutting them down.

The Legal Resources Centre (LRC), which will represent the schools, and the CCL said in a statement that the matter would be heard on May 12.

LRC spokesperson Claire Martens said in November last year that principals at the Huntley Glen, Belmont, Belvedere and Lynedoch schools in the Fort Beaufort district were told that their schools would be closed by the end of the first term in 2016.  

They were also told that pupils would be sent to a hostel in Adelaide, which is 80 km from the schools. Martens added that parents were not consulted about the school closure.  

"Across the country, provincial departments of education are closing farm schools in rural and remote communities, often forcing families to send learners as young as seven-years-old to live in under-staffed, poorly supervised hostel schools in distant towns. 

"In many instances of farm school closures, particularly in the Eastern Cape, the state fails to provide scholar transport to schools and fails to ensure access to hostels for learners," she said.

Meanwhile, CCL director Ann Skelton said, although the CCL was not opposed to school closures in principle, the correct procedures still had to be followed.