School tongue-lashing

27 May 2015 - 02:23 By Shenaaz Jamal

The Johannesburg High Court has ordered the Gauteng education department to take into consideration a school's admission policies, including its policy on language, when handling pupil enrolments. The Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools is legally challenging the department's bid to convert Afrikaans medium schools into parallel medium schools.The Gauteng department of education claims its goal is to alleviate overcrowding in schools in the province, but the federation argues that the department is unfairly targeting Afrikaans-medium schools.In its founding affidavit, the federation said the education department planned to convert 124 Afrikaans medium schools into parallel medium schools.The federation further argues that parents have the right to determine what language will be used as a medium of instruction to their pupils.It has also argued that the education department's e-platform initiative has resulted in chaos. The purpose of the e-platform is to electronically place pupils at all Gauteng schools.The department said it was not concerned with language but with ensuring that schools were fully utilised to deal with the increasing number of pupils that needed placement.It emphasised that, while a policy decision had been taken, no concrete implementation plans existed as yet.The federation said the department had implemented its policies and the e-platform without properly consulting school governing bodies.It said that e-platform would put the education department in control of school admissions, and so ignore language as a criterion when placing pupils, resulting in chaos.The department contended that language should not be a criteria for enrolment into a school.Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane, for the education department, said: "How do we deal with the hundreds of people who settle in Gauteng? The department has the duty of providing access to education and cannot appear to be concerned with the issue of languages."Judge Gregory Charles Wright's interim order instructed the department to take into consideration the school admission policies.The federation's CEO Paul Colditz said he was happy with the order and would now engage with the department in the hopes of avoiding a full-blown court battle.

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