A well-known private school on the East Rand has been forced to close its doors permanently, just as matric learners return to class and prepare to complete their final year of schooling.
Bishop Bavin School in Bedfordview closed with immediate effect on Thursday, 11 June. The closure was a shock to many in the community, but others said they "seen it coming" as the school, which is operated by the Anglican Church, has been in financial difficulty for some time.
It is alleged that some senior staff members were let go a while back due to the problems at the school, which opened in 1991 and is named after a former Anglican Bishop of Johannesburg, the Right Revd Timothy Bavin.
School has debts exceeding R30-million
According to the Bedfordview and Edenvale News, the Bishop Bavin School has a current combined deficit of R31.5-million. The Diocese of Johannesburg itself is owed some R15-million by the school.
The newspaper quotes the Anglican Bishop of Johannesburg, the Right Revd Dr Steve Moreo, as saying in a statement: "The school has been forced to close its doors with immediate effect as a result of a financial crisis."
The Bishop of Johannesburg said the decision to terminate the school's operations had not been taken lightly.
Three attempts at a survival plan failed
"In the final analysis, the Diocese had no other option as the school faced ever mounting debt without matching income. Three attempts to enter into arrangements with other educational institutions during the past year yielded no results as the terms and conditions had been prejudicial to the church."
Moreo said the advent of the coronavirus and the lockdown in South Africa further complicated negotiations with interested parties.
Unless the school receives a capital injection of some R25-million "from an angel investor who will require no return, there appears to be no way forward to save the school," he said. "Bishop Bavin School will therefore not be in a position to open its doors for the rest of the year."
Matric parents scramble to find alternatives
Parents of matric learners, in particular, immediately took to local social media groups to voice their concerns about studies in the lead-up to matric exams. Several asked for advice on alternative schools in the area and on home-schooling options.
In its own statement, Bishop Bavin advised contact had been made with other diocesan schools, asking them to favourably consider taking the school's learners.
"The board is working on a programme that will match learners to possible schools for placement, taking into account costs and fit. Each learner and parent will be invited to a scheduled meeting to discuss the options," the statement said.