A school in Vereeniging has been blasted in court by the Gauteng department of education, which claims that the school had refused to admit 55 students because of its language policy, not because of space.
The Times reported this afternoon that Kumbirai Toma‚ the department’s lawyer‚ said the Hoërskool Overvaal school governing body had made it clear in one of several meetings on the issue that “the school was an Afrikaans school and that this will never change”.
The publication quoted Toma as saying that the governing body had no problem admitting more Afrikaans pupils but raised the issue of capacity and space when it was instructed to admit the 55 English-speaking pupils.
Judge Bill Prinsloo asked Toma whether this was not the function of single-medium schools.
Toma replied that the department’s objection was not on the existence of single-medium schools but on the need to respond to the demographics and changing dynamics of society.
Hoërskool Overvaal celebrated a small victory on Thursday when the North Gauteng High Court found that the school’s application to seek an order against the Gauteng education department’s decision to admit an additional 55 learners, was an urgent matter.
“We have this urgent application and everyone, in particular the poor children and the authorities, want a result,” said Judge Bill Prinsloo.
Prinsloo had found that the department failed to convince the court that the application lacked urgency.
The school’s governing body brought an urgent application before the court on Tuesday in a bid to overturn the decision to admit the 55 learners.
Hoërskool Overvaal, whose medium of instruction is Afrikaans, argued that instructions from the Gauteng department of education did not negate its own language policy.
Advocate Albert Lamey, for the school, told the court that enforcing directives that go against the school’s language policy was in contradiction of the Schools Act.
“You cannot expect the school, against its language policy, to admit English learners to a school whose medium is Afrikaans,” Lamey told the court.
He added that the department of education could not negate a single-language policy from a school that was growing in number of people wanting to learn in that language, including learners “of all colours”.
Lamey also argued that the school was at its capacity and that the department tried to admit the English pupils before it had determined the available space in the high school.
In the school’s replying affidavit, it said allegations of racial discrimination and the use of language to segregate were devoid of all truth.
“The department is also fully aware that the school has a number of black learners whose choice of language for education has been to be in Afrikaans, who have been admitted in the past and have also been admitted for purposes of 2018.”
In the department’s answering affidavit, it argued that the school was not full and that students were denied places based on their language preference.
Affected parents and pupils who were in court on Thursday claimed they had to pass the school every day in order to take their children to schools much further away, because their children had been excluded on what they claimed were racial grounds.
“It’s unfortunate that from where we are observing it, it’s nothing but a racial issue, there is high racism that is taking place in that area and we believe that they are doing so to deny our children access [to] that school,” said parent Thloriso Mofokeng.
Judgment is expected next week. – Additional reporting by News24
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