Western Cape Education Forced To Place School Learners


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Ten days. This is how long the Western Cape Education Department has to find placement for unplaced learners. This comes after court action regarding the placement of learners was brought by civil society. 


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The Western Cape High Court has issued a significant ruling requiring the Western Cape Department of Education (WCED) to place all students who applied for schools for the 2024 academic year.

This decision comes after a legal challenge brought by Equal Education (EE) and the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) on behalf of numerous students left waiting for placements despite applying on time.

The crux of the issue stemmed from the WCED's definition of "placement." The department considered an automated online notification as sufficient, even if students weren't formally enrolled or assigned to a specific school. 

Equal Education says this resulted in many students and their families either not receiving the notifications or being turned away by schools due to capacity constraints. This left them in limbo, missing valuable months of education.

EE welcomed the court's decision, highlighting it as a victory for the students who faced an uncertain educational future. The ruling redefines "placement" to require formal enrollment with official placement letters. This ensures students are placed at appropriate schools and can finally begin attending classes.

This order symbolises a hard-won victory by EE, the five parents/caregivers (co-applicants) and their children who were represented by the EELC, as well as several similarly placed learners

The legal battle wasn't entirely successful for EE. While the department agreed to conduct regular assessments for students placed late in the year, the court did not mandate specific remedial plans as requested by EE. 

However, the court did order the Western Cape government to cover the legal costs incurred by EE.

The Western Cape Government who concerningly sought cost orders, personally, against the EELC legal practitioners who work on the matter, have been ordered to pay the cost of the application including the cost of their counsel team. 

This victory represents just one step in EE's ongoing fight for educational equity. A separate legal challenge contesting the WCED's policies on late applications is still ongoing. 

EE alleged that the late appreciation policies discriminate against students based on factors like race, poverty, and place of birth, further hindering access to education.

It also seeks an order declaring the WCED’s failure to timeously place late applicant learners in schools unconstitutional, and as a result, the WCED’s Admission policy and some of the WCED’s Admission policy circulars should be set aside because they permit late applicants to remain unplaced for an indefinite period, with no clarity on the way forward.

EE remains committed to monitoring the situation and ensuring all affected students are placed meaningfully. 

EE and the EELC will monitor the implementation of this court order and ensure that affected learners are meaningfully placed and able to access education. We remain resolute in ensuring the rights of every learner in the Western Cape are protected. No learner should be left behind!

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Learners without a school in western cape

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