'All will suffer in crammed classes'

12 January 2017 - 08:19 By ERNEST MABUSA and NEO GOBA

The Gauteng education department has ordered schools to admit more pupils despite complaints by their governing bodies that such "over-enrolment" would lower the quality of education.

The governing bodies of two schools in Pretoria have failed in their attempts to get a court order prohibiting the department from forcing them to accept additional pupils.

The department was still trying to place at least 40,000 children when the province's schools reopened yesterday.

  • Panyaza left with no choice but to put pressure on schoolsGauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi says that he has been left with no choice but to put pressure on some schools to accommodate more pupils because of a high influx of them coming into the province.

It is not the first time that admissions policy has put the Gauteng education department at loggerheads with school governing bodies.

Rivonia Primary School last year challenged the department's order that it admit a pupil to one of its classes, arguing that the school was full and that the school governing body was responsible for deciding how many pupils it could accept.

But in 2013 the Constitutional Court ruled the government, through the Basic Education Department, had the final say in determining class sizes in public schools.

  • New Braamfischerville school part of Gauteng’s commitment to open a new school every monthGauteng Premier David Makhura and education MEC Panyaza Lesufi have officially handed over the Nomzamo Madikizela-Mandela Primary School in Braamfischerville‚ Soweto‚ to acting principal Wandile Siwani.

Yesterday, the Pretoria High Court ruled that the application by the governing bodies of Hoërskool Montana and Hoërskool Overkruin was not urgent and struck it from the roll with costs.

"You can't interdict nonracialism and succeed. Nonracialism is the future . no one can stop it!" said Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi.

The governing bodies say the law gives them the power to determine the language and admission policy of their schools.

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The education department sent letters to the principals of the two schools last month "recommending" that they establish extra English classes.

But the department this week ordered each of the principals to admit an extra 40 pupils, equivalent to an extra English class.

Since 2002 the schools have had an agreement with the department to have one English class per grade while an English-medium school is being built.

The governing bodies said in their court application that it would be detrimental to all pupils if they were forced to admit more English pupils because they did not have the necessary infrastructure and personnel.

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They also argued that pupils could not be admitted to schools at which they could not be accommodated. They said an English-medium high school, Montanapoort, 800m from Hoërskool Montana, had places.

Counsel for the school governing bodies Greta Engelbrecht told the court that the school had admitted 340 Grade 8 pupils this year although it had capacity for only 245 . "The school is full to the rafters," she said.

"The problem here is that officials of the Gauteng department of education are simply giving instructions. They refuse to consult governing bodies about decisions," said the CEO of the Federation of Governing Bodies of SA Schools, Paul Colditz.

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He said the Constitutional Court ruled in 2013 that the department and the school governing bodies had distinct roles in the governance and management of schools but should act as partners.

He said the instruction from the department affected many school functions and played havoc with budgeting.

"That budget is prepared on the basis that the school will have a normal intake of learners until [it] reaches capacity," he said.

Colditz said the department had to build more schools because the number of pupils coming to Gauteng from elsewhere increased every year.

"They have failed to do so for the past 10 years," he said.

Lesufi said he had been left with no choice but to put pressure on some schools to accommodate more pupils.