High court strikes application by schools to interdict admission of more English-speaking learners
The governing bodies of two Pretoria high schools went to court on Wednesday morning to try to stop the Gauteng department of education from admitting more learners seeking instruction in English.
What started as a gentle request from the department later turned out to be an instruction to the principals of the two Afrikaans-medium schools‚ which had been offering a single English class per grade since 2002.
This is contained in an affidavit filed by Pieter Nel‚ chairman of the school governing body of Hoërskool Montana.
The governing bodies of Hoërskool Montana and Hoërskool Overkruin wanted the high court in Pretoria to prevent the department from placing or enrolling an additional number of learners seeking instruction in English at Montana and Overkruin.
Nel said the application was aimed at preserving Gauteng education officials from unlawfully interfering with what they regarded as the statutory preserve of the school governing bodies in the determination and application of language and admission policies adopted for the schools.
The high court struck the application from the roll with costs on Wednesday‚ saying the matter was not urgent.
The department did not have a chance to file an answering affidavit to the application that was filed by the governing bodies on Tuesday evening.
The department asked the court that the case be struck off the roll for lack of urgency.
The main concern expressed by the governing bodies was that the department expected the school principals to accept learners‚ irrespective of the fact that a greater number of students than was provided for in the departmental capacity determination had already been admitted.
They also said the department did not take into account the language policies of the schools‚ which provided for limited English instruction since 2002‚ pending the establishment of an English school in the area.
Montana and Overkruin are secondary schools located in Pretoria North and serve in an area that historically was populated mainly by Afrikaans speakers. Before 2002‚ the schools offered instruction in Afrikaans only.
Over time‚ demand for English instruction in the area grew‚ although the demand for Afrikaans did not shrink.
The department indicated in the early 2000s that it intended to establish a new school that would offer instruction in English.
In anticipation of the new school and to overcome the problem that no English instruction was being offered in the area‚ the school governing bodies entered into a gentleman’s agreement with the department.
Under this arrangement‚ which was never recorded in writing‚ the two schools introduced an English class per grade pending the construction of an English school in the area.
This began in 2002.
Last year‚ the English medium high school in the area was opened.
The problem began after the department introduced an electronic platform for registrations for 2017.
Some parents who required English instruction for their children and who had failed to obtain admission to the two schools challenged the placement.
This resulted in a meeting with Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi‚ who set up a task team to investigate the placement process.
The department in December requested that the schools open one additional English class each.
That request was denied by the school governing bodies.
On December 18‚ after the schools had closed‚ the district director for the Tshwane North District Shirley Molobi called a meeting with the principals for the schools to accept additional learners.
The principals could not attend as they were on holiday.
A further instruction was given to the schools on January 4 to admit additional learners in an additional English class.
This led to the governing body of Montana having an extraordinary meeting on the same day‚ and decided not to accede to the request.
“The SGBs decided to engage the services of a legal representative in the face of growing pressure from the department.”
Moplobi later summoned the principals to a meeting on Monday‚ where she signalled her intention to proceed with the placement of learners.
The governing bodies sent a letter to Molobi on Tuesday morning‚ informing her that the prospective learners could be placed at Montana Poort where space was available.
Nel said the governing bodies prepared their application after Molobi made it plain on Monday that she intended to act in contravention of the schools’ admission and language policies‚ and that she intended to inform students of their successful application for admission‚ despite the capacity issues.