THE move to close hundreds of schools in the Eastern Cape has been criticised by education interest groups.

Opposition parties and South African Democratic Teacher’s Union (Sadtu) called for proper research to be conducted on what caused the numbers of pupils to decrease.

They also want the exact number of pupils and schools investigated and for Bhisho to halt closing schools until proper plans have been developed.

The department was urged to consider the impact closures would have on: The need for scholar transport and budgets; The movement of teachers; Available infrastructure; and The future need for schools where they had been shut down.

COPE MPL Angela Woodhall said the department needed to develop a comprehensive report on the issue. “The education system in the Eastern Cape collapsed because it lacked leadership, management and governance of schools,” she said.

“The environment in many schools is not conducive to learning and teaching resulting in poor content knowledge and a lack of discipline.

“Some schools we have visited are well managed but lack the real resources to bring them into the 21st century.

“Until these matters are dealt with comprehensively and in an integrated way, the trend will be that more schools will close until few are left.”

DA shadow MEC for education Edmund van Vuuren has labelled the ANC as hypocrites following the ruling party’s uproar over the DA’s plan to close schools in the Western Cape last year.

Van Vuuren said the DA had closed less than tenth of the 310 schools gazetted for closure in the Eastern Cape. “Hypocritically, the ANC has attacked us for relocating pupils to better schools in a small number of cases where it is the best and only option for a good education,” he said.

“Where the ANC governs, it runs so many schools into the ground that parents shut these dysfunctional and dangerous spaces down themselves.”

He said the DA was was not against the closure of mud and farm schools where infrastructure had become health and safety hazards.

UDM MPL Jackson Bici said proper research was needed to be done before schools could be closed.

Bici said thousands of pupils were still in need of scholar transport.

Sadtu provincial secretary Mncekeleli Ndongeni said the union would engage with the department and ANC on the matter.

He said issues affecting the employment of temporary teachers were still unresolved and that the department was moving ahead with the closure of schools without proper plans.