Primary school takes education dept to court

A primary school in Cape Town on Thursday lodged an urgent application in the High Court challenging the Western Cape education department’s intention to send English-speaking students to the school, overriding the school governing body’s (SGB) admission and language policy.

“Legal teams agreed the matter will stand down until the parties reach an interim agreement. This agreement should determine when the matter is heard,” said Paul Frost, an attorney for Mikro Primary School.

According to Erhard Wolf, SGB chairperson, the matter has been brewing for the past three years.

Wolf said on Thursday that the education department is not taking into consideration the rapid urbanisation of Kuils River, where more than 3 000 homes have been built since the year 2000, without a concomitant increase in school classrooms.

“Really big problems will occur if the department does not develop short and longer-term plans to deal with the shortage of classrooms,” said Wolf.

He said the South African Schools Act allows for SGBs and parents to determine the language policy of a school, with Mikro wanting a strictly Afrikaans-only policy.

“The education department says there is room at Mikro, but there is not a single empty classroom. We already have an average of 33 [pupils] per classroom,” said Wolf.

He said an education-department circular sent to schools wanted the classroom average not to exceed 38, and any additional children admitted to Mikro could negatively affect the teacher-pupil ratio.

He said education authorities have a “legal opportunity” to place children at neighbouring schools that offer parallel media of instruction.

Wolf denied that the school is being discriminatory or exclusive, saying the school has a “fair amount of brown children and brown parents” supportive of the SGB’s decision to teach only in Afrikaans.

Wolf said a compromise already proposed to provincial education minister Cameron Dugmore is to look at all the classrooms and schools in Kuils River and move the pupils around, but this should be temporary and “not for the next 25 years”.

Meanwhile, education ministry spokesperson Gert Witbooi disputed that Mikro has insufficient space for additional pupils.

“They have extra classrooms and if they make these available, then they could be used for extra classes,” he said.

Witbooi said the extra classrooms are used mostly for art.

He said the changing population dynamics of the area mean that more and more parents want their children to be taught English at the nearest school.

“They [Mikro] don’t want English, while we want dual-medium teaching to help alleviate overcrowding in other schools,” he said.—Sapa

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