Admissions: Court rules against schools

2011-12-07 22:39

Johannesburg - School governing bodies (SGBs) in Gauteng do not have the unqualified power to determine admission policy at state schools, the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg ruled on Wednesday.

It found that the provincial education department had the final say.

The Rivonia Primary School and its SGB took the Gauteng education department to court after it intervened when a child was refused entry to the predominantly-white school, which has the lowest class numbers in its area.

The school said it had reached its capacity.

Judge Boissie Henry Mbha ruled it was up to the department, not an SGB, to determine the maximum capacity of a public school.

The MEC for education should be the ultimate arbiter.

"In my view, providing a basic education across race and class requires government intervention in the preliminary power of SGBs to determine admission policies," the judge said.

"Leaving schools to determine their admission policy, including the power to determine their capacity... one unwittingly creates space privileged schools can use and manipulate that power to fortify rather than dismantle existing inequalities."

Rivonia Primary School had raised funds to build nine of its 30 classrooms and to employ extra teachers, the judge noted.

"While their desire to offer the best possible education for its learners is laudable, the Constitution does not permit the interest of a few learners to override the right of all other learners in the area to receive a basic education," he said.

The court, however, described the conduct of an official who had marched the child in question into an empty desk in a classroom at Rivonia Primary in February as "disturbing" and "unsatisfactory".

"No doubt this must have been traumatising for the learner to be at the centre stage while there was an ongoing dispute between the mother, the officials from the department and some school personnel," Mbha said.

"All this could have been avoided by leaving the learner at home while the problem played itself out."

The judge also spoke out against the identity of the child having been made public in media reports.

He criticised the way the department head withdrew the principal's powers regarding admissions when he, in any case, had the power to overrule individual decisions.

"She [the principal] was never afforded the opportunity to furnish reasons why her delegated powers of admission should not be withdrawn," said the judge.

The Gauteng department of education welcomed the ruling, saying migration into the province had caused the pupil population to grow by more than 37% in 16 years.

"This places huge strain on the available resources and the rate of building new schools cannot cope with the rate of in-migration," it said in a statement.

The department said the provincial government was working on speeding up school infrastructure delivery.

"When the Rivonia court action was launched in February 2011, the department felt that it needed to defend this case," it said.

"We understood that we had a constitutional duty to find space for children who presented themselves at our institutions or the department."

  • pws69 - 2011-12-08 01:23

    The maximum capacity of a classroom is determined by occupation health and safety.

  • Kenny - 2011-12-08 06:24

    Now they are going to stick that poor kid in that school , to prove their point, where he is going to be tormented by everyone and have the worst 7 years of his life

  • Truthis - 2011-12-08 07:42

    ""Leaving schools to determine their admission policy, including the power to determine their capacity... one unwittingly creates space privileged schools can use and manipulate that power to fortify rather than dismantle existing inequalities."" Lowest common denominator. All children must have equally poor schooling. How abpoutn building more schools and desist from encouraging births with grants?

  • Graeme - 2011-12-08 12:44

    1. Every child has the right to quality education - Agree 100% 2. A class with more than 20 learners infringes on the ability of every child to receive what they are constitutionally guaranteed in point 1 above

      Vanessa - 2012-03-07 00:35

      A class with more than 20 learners infringes ....Totally flawed statement. In the UK, the average class size of all primary schools is 30. While these vary in quality, the fact that there are 30 students in one class does not infringe on the ability of the children to learn. To all those who are going on about white schools this, and white schools that....WAKE UP !!! Think like a human being and not a selfish individual..Your horrible apartheid deprived thousands/millions of children of a fair education. If you look at the stats of what was spent on educating a white vs black child before the end of apartheid, all those going on about schools built for and by white people would be ashamed of themselves...And yes, hurl whatever abuse you want at me as in the final analysis what I say is true....

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