Major victory for unplaced learners over WCED as court orders department to place pupils within ten days

The Western Cape High Court has ordered the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) to place learners within 10 days.

The Western Cape High Court has ordered the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) to place learners within 10 days.

Published May 22, 2024


In victory for all out-of-school learners in the Metro East Education District, the Western Cape High Court has ordered the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) to place learners within 10 days.

This comes after Equal Education (EE) and the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) had hauled the department to court for the urgent placement of learners who remained out of school.

In part A of the matter, the court on Friday ruled in favour of the organisations, ordering the WCED to place learners urgently.

“The first to third respondents are directed to place all learners across all grades who on their own or through their parents/guardians caused an application to be made for their placement in a public school in the Metro East Education District for the 2024 academic year, or who approached the Metro East Education District office or a school to request such placement, after the (WCED’s) application window closed (‘late applicants’) and who have not been placed at the date of this Court’s Order (’unplaced late applicants’), including any of the learners whose names appear from Annexure A to the Notice of Motion and who remain unplaced at the date of this Order, into schools within 10 days of this Court’s Order,” Judge Lister Gcinikhaya Nuku said.

Judge Nuku also ruled that the term “to place” must mean to ensure that a learner has formally been enrolled in an appropriate school or other education facility, where applicable, has received a placement letter, and may physically attend school.

Both EE and EELC welcomed the decision and said they would be monitoring the process.

“This is a victory within a system which has sadly left many learners waiting for school places, without any clear plan or timelines – often well into the school year.

“The WCED has been avoiding its obligation to meaningfully place learners by counting them as ‘placed’ once they receive an automatic notification of placement through its online system.

This despite the fact that many learners, parents and caregivers whom EE and the EELC engaged with did either not receive the alleged notification or were turned away by schools, and as a result, had been waiting for months at home to be enrolled in a school. Significantly, the High Court has now given a definition for the term ‘placement’ and has ordered the WCED to ensure that learners are formally enrolled. This order is aimed at ensuring that all learners are meaningfully placed and that their right to education is finally realised,“ EE and EELC said.

Part B of their application will proceed on a semi-urgent basis. It focuses on the WCED’s alleged policy failure to address late applications and the extent to which it “unfairly discriminates against late applicants based on race, poverty level, place of birth, and social origin”.

It also seeks an order declaring the WCED’s failure to timeously place late applicant learners in schools “unconstitutional”.

Education MEC David Maynier maintained that the matter could have been resolved through engagement with the WCED.

“Most of the learners named in Equal Education’s initial application were placed, or were in the process of being placed, at the time of their application. Where Equal Education added additional names via their court papers, we moved speedily to resolve the new cases. We remain committed to providing quality education to all learners.”

Cape Times