Col­lab­o­ra­tion schools within the law and our best op­tion

Cape Times - - OPINION -

THE Let­ter (“Cau­tion over Col­lab­o­ra­tion Schools”, Cape Times, Novem­ber 9) refers. There is no deny­ing that learn­ing out­comes in his­tor­i­cally dis­ad­van­taged ar­eas are, in gen­eral, still un­ac­cept­ably low.

De­spite hav­ing many ex­cel­lent schools and hav­ing im­ple­mented a wide range of ini­tia­tives to im­prove ac­cess to qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion in dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­ni­ties, the fact re­mains that peo­ple in these com­mu­ni­ties are of­ten not able to gain ac­cess to the same qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion as those who can af­ford to pay for ad­di­tional re­sources.

They are also not al­ways able to ac­cess the skills re­quired to gov­ern a school.

The col­lab­o­ra­tion schools pi­lot is ev­i­dence of our com­mit­ment to build­ing part­ner­ships with the pri­vate sec­tor, the donor com­mu­nity and civil so­ci­ety in the best in­ter­ests of these chil­dren. The pur­pose of the pi­lot is to prove it in our con­text.

Crit­ics cite ex­am­ples of cases in the UK and US in which such schools have not worked. There are just as many, if not more, cases where they have worked. We pre­fer the “glass half full” ap­proach. The fact that there have been fail­ures and suc­cesses in other coun­tries puts us in the ad­van­ta­geous po­si­tion of be­ing able to learn from these and thus avoid them.

We do not be­lieve that we have the mo­nop­oly on run­ning good schools, and are thus com­mit­ted to part­ner­ships with rel­e­vant stake­hold­ers to max­imise re­sources and ex­per­tise.

It is time to clar­ify the on­go­ing al­le­ga­tion that we are act­ing out­side the law. Equal Ed­u­ca­tion should be aware that ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion is an area of con­cur­rent na­tional and provin­cial com­pe­tence, as pro­vided in Sched­ule 4 of the con­sti­tu­tion.

Sec­tion 146 of the con­sti­tu­tion sets out very clearly that, save in a few de­fined in­stances, if na­tional and provin­cial leg­is­la­tion con­flict, it is the provin­cial leg­is­la­tion that will pre­vail.

The Western Cape has en­acted our own ed­u­ca­tion leg­is­la­tion, namely the Western Cape Provin­cial School Ed­u­ca­tion Act, 1997 (Act 12 of 1997) (“the Western Cape Schools Act”).

Sec­tion 12(1)(g) of that law pro­vides that the provin­cial min­is­ter (MEC) may estab­lish as a pub­lic school “any other type of school that he or she deems nec­es­sary for ed­u­ca­tion”.

Ex­er­cis­ing this leg­is­lated power, I have es­tab­lished a dif­fer­ent type of pub­lic school termed “col­lab­o­ra­tion schools” with a dif­fer­ent fund­ing and gover­nance model.

The MEC is em­pow­ered to make pol­icy. As such, I have de­vel­oped a pol­icy for col­lab­o­ra­tion schools. We have in place a mem­o­ran­dum of agree­ment with the fun­ders. The head of depart­ment (HOD) has a ser­vice-level agree­ments in place with each op­er­at­ing part­ner for each col­lab­o­ra­tion school, and the fun­ders, like­wise, have agree­ments with the op­er­at­ing part­ners.

The fact that SA Schools Act does not make pro­vi­sion for this type of pub­lic school does not mean that the prov­ince can­not leg­is­late thereon.

The ap­proach of Equal Ed­u­ca­tion and some oth­ers ap­pears to be based on the premise that na­tional leg­is­la­tion gov­ern­ing ed­u­ca­tion is per­mit­ted to “cover the field” in a man­ner which leaves no or min­i­mal room for a prov­ince to ex­er­cise its con­cur­rent com­pe­tence. This can­not be the in­ten­tion of the con­sti­tu­tion. We do not be­lieve that our leg­is­la­tion falls into the ex­cep­tions pro­vided for in s146.

An­other false­hood is that the ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment trans­fers funds to the op­er­at­ing part­ners. Money is trans­ferred di­rectly to the schools.

Ini­tial in­di­ca­tions are that this project is yield­ing ex­cit­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties. Par­ents have unan­i­mously voted to con­tinue with it in one of the schools where we had the most re­sis­tance. They are clearly see­ing the ben­e­fits.

The fun­ders are com­mit­ted to im­prov­ing ed­u­ca­tion. The op­er­at­ing part­ners are not al­lowed to make a profit. And the project is tak­ing place only in poor com­mu­ni­ties.

The ques­tion, there­fore, that needs to be asked is, why Equal Ed­u­ca­tion ap­pears in­tent on cast­ing as­per­sions on it, in­stead of supporting our at­tempts to pro­vide bet­ter learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for the dis­ad­van­taged.

They con­tin­u­ally criticise us for not do­ing more to help poor com­mu­ni­ties.

They de­mand things that are un­af­ford­able, largely be­cause of the large-scale in­com­pe­tence and cor­rup­tion of the na­tional gov­ern­ment and some other ANC-run prov­inces.

And yet, when we em­bark on a project to up­lift dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­ni­ties, with the com­mit­ment of pri­vate cit­i­zens who are pre­pared to put their money into it, they criticise that also.

Given the lev­els of cor­rup­tion in many places in the gov­ern­ment, one can­not blame the fun­ders for want­ing some mea­sure of con­trol to en­sure that their money is be­ing prop­erly utilised.

We will not be de­terred by the likes of Equal Ed­u­ca­tion, who can­not come up with any fea­si­ble plan to ad­dress the in­equal­i­ties that still ex­ist as a re­sult of our apartheid legacy. Debbie Schäfer Ed­u­ca­tion MEC


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