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By Ilse de Lange


School language battle in court over Afrikaans-only high school

Education officials want the school to admit 55 additional English language learners when the school opens next week.

The education department and an Afrikaans-only high school in Vereeniging are squaring up for a legal battle about the admission of English-speaking learners.

Hoërskool Overvaal has applied for an urgent interdict in the High Court in Pretoria today to overturn a decision by the Gauteng education department that the school must admit 55 additional English-language learners when the school opens on January 17.

The department took the decision after the school turned away the additional pupils, who all live within the vicinity of the school, claiming it was already full.

The department’s district director for Sedibeng East, Criselda Makhubela, in court papers disputed the allegation that the school was full, saying it still had the capacity to accommodate the additional learners and would even then not be filled to capacity.

Makhubela strenuously objected to the school’s governing body launching the application, saying an SGB of a public school played no part in the process of admission of learners and had no authority to declare that a school was full, as only the department had that right.

She said it was clear that they “intended taking over the management and control of the school from the department by usurping the powers of the department over the school”.

The school alleged it only had 17 classrooms available, but Makhubela said there were actually 21 classrooms available, which meant the current 621 Afrikaans learners, and still had the capacity for an additional 219 learners at 40 learners a class.

“Language cannot be used as a tool to segregate learners in violation of the constitution, the School’s Act, Gauteng Schools Education Act and the Gauteng admission policy,” she said.

She said the department had rejected the school’s language policy, the SGB was notified to address the issue of the use of Afrikaans as a single medium of instruction and the department had constantly engaged with the SGB on the issue of taking English learners since 2016.

“It is unbelievable and unfortunate that even until today, in this constitutional democracy, we still have a society that sees nothing wrong with a language that was used as a tool of segregation and discrimination during apartheid, which 90 percent of South Africans bemoan.

“A language whose legacy is sorrow and tears to the majority of those whom it was not their mother tongue. Today, in this constitutional democracy, we still fight the same separatist language, exacerbated by a denial of transformation by certain sectors of society. That is not acceptable,” she said.

Judge Bill Prinsloo postponed the application until Thursday so that all parties could read the school’s reply.


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