For Immediate Release: 03 April 2017
On 30 March 2017, Phakamisa High School in Port Elizabeth received R306 730.75 from the Eastern Cape Department of Education (ECDOE) after the Legal Resources Centre intervened to ensure that funding, which had been outstanding on their paper budget and their school nutrition budget since 2016, was paid.
In September 2015, Phakamisa, a no-fee school in Zwide, was forced to merge with Thembalabantu Senior Secondary School and Lwazilwethu Senior Secondary School. The merger was overseen by the Eastern Cape Department of Education’s (ECDOE) district office in Port Elizabeth, but did not comply with the procedure for the merging of a school as set out in the South African Schools Act.
The schools were forced to merge after it became apparent that the infrastructure at Thembalabantu and Lwazilwethu was so dilapidated and unsafe that learners could no longer be taught in the school buildings.
After the merger, Phakamisa’s learner numbers increased from 544 to 860 (the number has since declined and is currently at 729) and the two other schools were closed. Despite the increase in learner numbers, the 2016/2017 paper budgets and National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) budgets for Thembalabantu and Lwazilwethu were not transferred from the closed schools to Phakamisa. Consequently, Phakamisa had to provide for 860 learners while only receiving funding for 544 learners.
This had an impact on the quality and quantity of the food provided through the school nutrition programme and the overall financial situation at the school. The school was forced to use much-needed maintenance funds to subsidise the nutrition programme and pay their outstanding accounts. At the start of the 2017 school year, the school was experiencing immense financial problems and had no money to feed the learners or pay any of their bills.
On 17 February 2017, the Legal Resources Centre, representing the school governing body of Phakamisa, applied to the High Court in Makhanda for an order compelling the ECDOE to merge the budgets of the three schools and pay Phakamisa the outstanding money for their paper budget and NSNP budget.
The parties reached a settlement agreement and the ECDOE agreed to pay the outstanding money within 21 days of the settlement.
This payment has ensured that Phakamisa can settle their outstanding debt and provide school nutrition to all the learners.