Dept will pursue dual language school case - Lesufi

2015-05-27 16:24


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Pretoria - The Gauteng Department of Education is willing to take the case against the conversion of single-medium schools to parallel medium all the way to the Constitutional Court, MEC Panyaza Lesufi said on Wednesday.

"This is round one... round two is coming," he told reporters in Pretoria, following an order by the High Court in Johannesburg on Tuesday that the department must take into account schools' admission and language policies when dealing with admission of pupils for 2016.

"We will pursue this matter until it arrives at the Constitutional Court. In fact, let's not waste time, let's see if we are allowed to go straight to Constitutional Court."

The Federation of Governing Bodies of SA Schools' (Fedsas) had applied for an urgent application to halt the department's centralised admissions process for 2016 and its plan to convert single-medium schools to parallel-medium schools.

It argues that these unlawfully interfere with the powers of schools' governing bodies in determining the language of teaching and the schools' admission policies.

'The learned judge erred'

Judge Gregory Wright said his order would be in operation pending the final determination of "part B" of the application, which dealt with the plan to convert schools, which would be heard at a later stage.

"Schools are entitled to prepare waiting lists A and B [for pupils]... In doing so, schools may take into account their admission and language policies," Wright said.

"The district director and head of department [of education] must, when considering the lists, take into account, along with other relevant and lawful considerations, the schools' admission and language policies."

 Lesufi said on Wednesday that "the learned judge had erred".

"We believe another court can come to a different decision."

Lesufi said the department agreed with the schools' preparing their own A and B lists, since the "e-platform" for admissions, which centralised the admissions process with the department, would not affect the schools' ability to make their own lists.

The department, however, did have a problem with the schools' taking into account their own admission and language policies.

"The department has a problem with this point, firstly because it is contrary to regulation seven on Admission of Learners to Public Schools, which clearly states the criteria that the school must consider when they are compiling their respective waiting lists."

He said the department wanted to reiterate that no school would exclude a pupil of the basis of language.

"The right to education is one of the most fundamental rights in the Constitution, and if any school, when applying its language and admissions policy, acts contrary to the Constitution, that policy must be disregarded," Lesufi said.  

Fedsas 'misleading the court'

"Although this is an interim order, it is the intention of the department to pursue its rights and ensure that both the spirit and the letter of the Constitution are upheld when the review part [part B] of this... case is fully argued on its merits in due course."

He said Fedsas was "misleading the court" by saying the case was about language rights.

"Language rights are protected in the Constitution and will always be respected by the department... this is an issue about access to education."

He said that if a school's numbers were short, or only had 300 pupils when they could accommodate 600, he could close the schools for economic reasons.

"But if more pupils go there, it can be kept open. Why would they not want the school to be kept open?" Lesufi asked.

"What makes people scared of a [black] 6-year-old playing together with a white 6-year-old or an Indian 6-year-old?"

He said that even if all courts ruled against the department, future generations would know that people tried to make South Africa non-racial.

'They will continue the fight until they win'

"My children and my grandchildren will never urinate over our graves... They will continue the fight until they win."

He said the proposed plan to convert the schools would not only look at Afrikaans single-medium schools.

"Why should I build new schools while some are half empty?" he asked.

"Those who want to mobilise Afrikaners against government, don't use my name and this department. Fedsas does not speak on behalf of all Afrikaners."

Lesufi said his ultimate reason for pursuing the conversion was to make public schools compete with private schools.

"The Afrikaans schools will help us to compete with private schools. We have a foundation to compete with them," he said.

He said this would also ease the burden of exorbitant private school fees on parents.

"I want to produce a child that solves the problem of electricity... one that can solve the problems of potholes or traffic lights."

He said he would work to undo all the harm apartheid done to the education system.

"Whatever [apartheid era prime minister Hendrik] Verwoerd did, my mission on earth is to reverse that.

"Part B is the issue now, and it is still pending. That is round two of this fight and it is going to be interesting. I am at gym now," he joked.

Read more on:    concourt  |  fedsas  |  panyaza lesufi  |  pretoria  |  education

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