Instruction to admit more learners has potential to destroy quality of education: Fedsas

11 January 2017 - 18:27 By Ernest Mabuza

The instruction given by the Gauteng department of education to admit more learners in schools‚ despite protestations by school governing bodies‚ has the potential to destroy the quality of education in those schools.

This is the view of The Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (Fedsas)‚ following a failed court bid by two school governing bodies in Pretoria to interdict the department from taking any action which would amount to the schools admitting additional learners in their schools.

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The high court in Pretoria said on Wednesday the application by the school governing bodies of Hoërskool Montana & Hoërskool Overkruin was not urgent and struck it from the roll with costs.

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

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The department of education started sending letters to the principals of the two schools in December last year “recommending” that the schools establish extra English classes.

However‚ the department this week instructed the school principals to admit an extra 40 learners in each school‚ equivalent to an extra English class at the schools.

Since 2002‚ the schools had a “gentleman’s agreement” with the department to have an English class per grade while an English-medium school was being built.

The governing bodies said in their application that if the schools were forced to admit further English learners in the circumstances where they do not have necessary infrastructure and personnel‚ this would be to the detriment of all of the grade learners that had been admitted to the school.

They also argued that learners cannot be admitted to schools where they cannot be accommodated.

They also argued that an English medium-high school‚ Montanapoort‚ which was 800 metres from Hoërskool Montana‚ had places available.

Addressing the high court in Pretoria on Wednesday‚ counsel for the school governing bodies Greta Engelbrecht said the number of Grade 8 learners admitted to the school this year was 340‚ while the school had a capacity to accommodate 245 learners.

"The school is full to the rafters‚" Engelbrecht said.

Fedsas said the fact of the matter was that the schools were full to capacity.

“The problem here is that the officials of the Gauteng department of education are simply giving instructions. They refuse to consult school governing bodies about their decisions‚” Fedsas CEO Paul Colditz said.

Colditz said a Constitutional Court judgment in 2013‚ which dealt with who has the power to decide the capacity of public schools‚ said both the department and the school governing bodies fulfilled a distinct role in the governance and management of schools.

“They should operate as partners in line with the constitutional imperatives of cooperative governance‚” Colditz said.

Colditz said the instruction from the department affected a lot of the school functions.

“The school governing body draws a budget‚ usually during October before the preceding year. In the budget‚ provision is made for everything concerning the running of the school. These include additional staff‚ equipment and consumables. That budget is prepared on the basis that the school will have a normal intake of learners‚ until the school reaches capacity.

“You now get additional learners‚ the whole budget is practically torn to pieces.”

He said the addition of an extra class meant there must be a teacher in the classroom‚ stationery and desks.

Colditz said the solution for the department was to build more schools because the number of learners coming to Gauteng increase every year.