Naptosa wary over school admissions
Johannesburg - Placing children in schools in a bureaucratic way would likely undermine the delivery of quality education, a teachers' union said on Friday.
The quality of teaching was compromised when the number of pupils in a classroom exceeded a critical number, the National Professional Teachers' Organisation of SA (Naptosa) said.
Its president, Esrah Ramasehla, was reacting to a ruling in the South Gauteng High Court this week that a school governing body (SGB) in Gauteng did not have the unqualified power to determine a public school's admission policy.
It would be up to the Gauteng education department, not schools and their governing bodies, to decide whether schools had reached their capacities or not.
Ramasehla said officials were likely to deal with placements in a bureaucratic way without any consideration of circumstances in schools.
"This approach will exacerbate rather than solve the problem," Ramasehla said.
"It is not possible to pay the same attention to individual learners in a class of 50, or even 80, as it is in a class of 30 or 35 to 40."
Schools and classrooms, and the national norms for pupil-to-teacher ratios, were designed to accommodate classes of more or less this size.
There were good reasons this ratio was arrived at, said Ramasehla.
"Everyone who has ever taught a large class knows how difficult it is to maintain good discipline; pay sufficient attention to individual learners and to deliver quality teaching if a class is too big," he said.
"This is particularly critical for the first three or four years of schooling during which learners are taught fundamental skills such as reading, writing, counting and simple calculations."
Ramasehla said Naptosa also had empathy with the provincial education authority.
"The (provincial education) minister does have the fundamental responsibility to protect the constitutional right of every learner to have access to schooling," he said.
"The increase in the number of learners who have access to schools over the last few years is evidence that, in this regard, the education system is beginning to have success in respect of redressing inequities of the past."
The Legal Resources Centre (LRC) welcomed the judgment, saying that the education MEC was obliged to ensure that there were enough places in schools for all the province's children.
Should the MEC not be able to comply with this obligation, he or she had to take steps to remedy the situation.
"The apartheid regime has resulted in severe racial disparities within our schools," the centre said.
"This judgment goes some way to addressing these disparities resulting in learners being able to realise their rights to education."
The LRC acted on behalf of Equal Education, which was involved in the case as a friend of the court.
Rivonia Primary School and its SGB took the department and the provincial MEC to court after a department official intervened by marching a child who had been refused entry to an empty desk at the beginning of the school year.
They are considering an appeal.
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