ConCourt dismisses Gauteng education department's appeal in Overvaal language case

The Constitutional Court on Thursday dismissed an appeal by the Gauteng Department of Education against a high court judgment that found Hoërskool Overvaal does not have capacity to enrol English-speaking pupils.

In January this year, Hoërskool Overvaal, a high school where the medium of instruction is Afrikaans, approached the North Gauteng High Court after the department attempted to place 55 pupils, who would have to be taught in English, at the school.

At the time, Judge Bill Prinsloo set aside the department's decision to admit 55 pupils to the Vereeniging school, saying that the school had no capacity to receive the pupils, let alone to do so on such short notice and effectively convert to a dual medium school.

Department spokesperson Steve Mabona confirmed in February that the department had filed papers with the Constitutional Court to appeal the high court's decision.

On Thursday, the Constitutional Court dismissed the appeal with costs on the grounds that there was no prospect of success.

This was due to the fact that the department failed to consider the available capacity at two English medium schools that share the same feeder zone as Hoërskool Overvaal, the court noted in its order.

In the high court judgment, Prinsloo also found that the two schools, General Smuts and Phoenix High, had capacity for the 55 pupils.

Following the Constitutional Court's decision to dismiss the department's appeal, Mabona said the department was still studying the judgment and would comment at a later stage.

In a statement on Thursday, Trade union Solidarity welcomed the Constitutional Court.

"The hands of public schools, and more specifically Afrikaans public schools, have been strengthened by this court order and it enables governing bodies to apply their admission policies with confidence," said Solidarity deputy chief executive Johan Kruger.

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