School must decide on admissions, court hears

2012-11-16 21:10

Bloemfontein - Schools must be able to decide when they have reached their capacity in pupil numbers, the Supreme Court of Appeal heard on Friday.

"In regard to admission policy, there must come a point [when schools say] 'We cannot take more'," submitted Gerrit Pretorius, counsel for the Rivonia primary school.

The court was hearing an appeal by the school's governing body against a declaratory order against it in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg.

In 2010, the Gauteng education department forced the school principal to accept a Grade One pupil even though the school was full.

The pupil had been put on a waiting list, but was later enrolled by order of the department.

The principal was disciplined for not adhering to the department’s initial order to admit the child.

Capacity set

The school governing body (SGB) launched a court application to seek certain declaratory and interdictory relief, which they lost. It then appealed to the SCA.

Pretorius submitted that the capacity of a school was set in the school's admission policy, by the SGB.

"It is absolutely clear that capacity is set by the SGB."

He said it had become a trend for the government to interfere with the rights of SGBs.

"It is a burning issue, not just in Gauteng but in other provinces."

Pretorius submitted that the actions of the department had fundamentally undermined the partnership between the government and the SGB, by taking away the rights of parents at schools.

He said parents, through SGBs, looked after the interests of schools and with that, the quality of education at schools.

"The community is better suited to determine what is best for a school," he said.


However Danny Berger, counsel for Gauteng’s education MEC, refuted the submission that SGBs had the final say in admission policies and in the setting of schools' capacity.

"That is not a final capacity. It is not the last word."

He submitted that these powers could be overruled in some instances, because the MEC was charged with the responsibility to place every child in a school.

Berger said the government could even take advantage of supplementary funds paid by parents. This could be money raised to appoint more teachers to better the teacher/pupil ratio for quality education.

"Having raised money does not excuse them from the need in society," he said.

The argument drew reaction from the Bench of five appeal court judges.

"What you say is a HOD [head of department] can place pupils on resources of parents and it's right?" asked Judge Robert Nugent.

Supplementary funds

Berger said it was. He submitted that if the government was unable to place children in certain schools, it could place them in others which it thought had the capacity.

"Where is the obligation of parents to carry government functions?" asked Nugent.

Berger said supplementary funds for schools were a function of SGBs.

He argued that the department did not even have to ask a school if it was ready and able to handle additional children.

Berger submitted that the department’s powers to place pupils could be challenged if extreme numbers were placed, but not in the case of one or two pupils.

The SCA reserved judgment.

  • khethu.ndlovu.3 - 2012-11-16 21:26

    They think this is europe

      goeie.jaarling - 2012-11-16 21:33

      No khethu, if the department wants to decide how many learners must be in a class then the department can pay my kid's school fees. We pay through our necks to ensure that our kids get a decent level of education so you can just FO together with your pathetic education department.

      piet.motsoeneng - 2012-11-16 22:08

      Thats the problem, the white dominated schools always do everything in their power to exclude black kids and hide behind non-existant overcrowding and the SGB members will always be the very same white people who will ensure that their kids do not study with black kids.

      ian.flack2 - 2012-11-16 22:45

      No Piet, the problem is that people like you WANT to live in the past....move on brother

      piet.motsoeneng - 2012-11-16 22:50

      What past are you talking about Ian? Can you come with facts please and lets talk, make me understand where you are coming from. It doesnt help to be aggressive without bringing facts.

      lacrimose.wolf - 2012-11-16 23:18

      Over-crowding has long-term consequences. From overloaded land, water, food, taxis, schools, job all the way to overloading an economy. Look to your own perception of the world around you before conveniently and naively making this a European issue.

      piet.motsoeneng - 2012-11-16 23:29

      @Lacrimosewolf, so what should happen to the kids who could not be admitted due overcrowding? What about their right to have access to education? I wont get into europe issue.

      willie.dique - 2012-11-17 08:12

      NO this is reality...You can't get proper education when there is too many pupils in a class. Catch a wakeup call!!!!

      goeie.jaarling - 2012-11-17 09:06

      Piet, I pay 40% of my salary to Government to build schools for kids and to provide free education to all kids in the country, including mine. Well, they don't build schools and they don't provide free education so I must pay between R1,800 and R3,500 a month per child for school fees over and above the tax in order for them to get a decent education. Now you want to come and tell me about other kids' right to education...WHAT ABOUT MY KIDS' RIGHTS TO A DECENT EDUCATION THAT I PAY FOR????? get over your pathetic African begging bowl mentality and start paying your own way you pathetic excuse for a human being.

      renier.lubbe.7 - 2012-11-18 01:33

      @piet.motsoeneng: Why make a black/white thing out of this? There are many former "white" schools where there are more than 80% black learners. The parents of these black learners serve on the schools governing body as well and this body tries to regulate the student/teacher ratio taking cognizance of the departmental student/teacher ratio which is already overcrowding the classrooms. Yet the department frequently instructs schools to take even more pupils, to the determent of the children as classrooms are frequently not big enough or equipped to accommodate all the children.

  • terrylee.heuer - 2012-11-16 21:27

    This is good news!!

  • CaL044 - 2012-11-16 21:45

    Education can only succeed with the cooperation of everybody,not least the students themselves.

  • piet.motsoeneng - 2012-11-16 22:16

    This is sad indeed the white dominated schools will always find reason to exclude black kids. If they dont complain about language, claim to be full and yet admit white kids plus they will charge exorbitant fees just to ensure that they keep away as many blacks as they possibly can because they know only a previlaged few will afford them. Without the intervention of departments we will surely move back to the days of schools that are deliberately meant to be attended by whites only. That cant be right.

      kerri.barlow.5 - 2012-11-16 22:22

      That's hardly the reason at all. They charge those school fees because the SGB hires more teachers to make smaller classes. As for the language. Its been proven that learners who learn in their home language go on to grasp and master a second language better. What we need is more home language schools. This is not a race issue.

      piet.motsoeneng - 2012-11-16 22:32

      That is not always the case Kerri, I work for department of education and we deal with these case every now and then. You see, when you talk about home language then it becomes a race issue, whether we like it or not because you would not find a white kid with Sesotho as his/her home language and the same applies to Afrikaans, you cant find a black kid with Afrikaans as their home language. So, it is a race issue not necessarily racism.

      douglas.crouse.14 - 2012-11-16 22:35

      always fun when it comes down to race here in SA

      kerri.barlow.5 - 2012-11-16 22:36

      I see what you mean. That's an aspect I hadn't considered. its a dilemma. But you must agree too many children in a class does more harm than good

      kerri.barlow.5 - 2012-11-16 22:39

      What piet.motsoeneng is true. Learners learn best in their home language but then we would be separating them by race. When we separate we don't learn about each other and racism thrives.

      piet.motsoeneng - 2012-11-16 22:46

      You see what I mean Kerri, even if your chold's home language is Afrikaans, nobody should decide that your child cant enrol in a school that has english as a medium of instruction, it should be your choice as a parent not the decision of other parent, tat is SGB and if all fails the department should intervene. Its not always bad to talk about race.

      kerri.barlow.5 - 2012-11-16 22:51

      I agree. It still doesn't solve our problem of over crowding in schools though. I think in this case that's the issue. We have it in our school. I teacher at a school with majority learners of colour. We sit with this problem every year, how to balance the number of learners, teachers and funds.

      douglas.crouse.14 - 2012-11-16 22:54

      Im sure this article is about over populated schools and not a language issue, Nor do i believe it has anything to do with race. All children to have the right to education, but a school can hold only so many children. Over populating a school then takes away the right of education of the other learners. The department of education has however done a good job with funzalushaka bursaries but more has to be done!

      kerri.barlow.5 - 2012-11-16 22:57

      The language of instruction at a school plays a very important role here. The two are intertwined. You can't look at one aspect of the education system. You need to see how the problem fits in within the system. One effects the other.

      piet.motsoeneng - 2012-11-16 23:07

      You see, in SA the race issue is so sensetive that even when one is talking about race in good faith, it is sometimes construed as racism, which is not always the case. Kerri is right, you cant separate the two, the language determines whoch specific school that a leaner can enrol in and language is linked to race and it cant always be viewed as a bad thing to talk about race. Everybody chould assist in playing the balancing game, between the rights of the learner and ovetcrowding.

      jeff.swart.96 - 2012-11-17 02:58

      Piet, if the school bus is full, should we jam more kids in??? Go ask JZ for extra schools. Oh yeah, he's already busy building his compound. Funny that you are the 1st one to bring race into this; when your own race is screwing you over

      piet.motsoeneng - 2012-11-17 06:19

      Jeff, the bus issue is a learner transport issue which is a separate issue from school overcrowding. Dont confuse issues. The perspective from which we are talking about race, is not influenced by racism. But if it becomes your people and my people, then the it becomes racism. Why every time a white person does not agree with a black person and vice versa racism should always be dragged to the otherwise inlightning discussion?

      willie.dique - 2012-11-17 11:46

      Stop living in your dream world where you give apartheid the blame for everything. Broaden your horizons and look at the majority of school and teachers - where people want to work and succeed. "White dominated schools" is from the past!!!!! Are you one of the pathetic excuses in our modern society that wants everything on a silver platter?

      kerri.barlow.5 - 2012-11-17 12:12

      For goodness sake the only people turning this into a race war are you two. We were have a nice intellectual conversation, and yes whether we like it or not race was an aspect. There are still a few schools that have majority white children, because of the language of instruction issue. Education is far more complicated than what every one else likes to think it is.

      renier.lubbe.7 - 2012-11-18 16:36

      Piet it is obvious that you have no idea how many black people are in the middle income bracket. Funny that there is no uproar from your department when a white kid is turned away.

  • kerri.barlow.5 - 2012-11-16 22:19

    As a teacher this is great news. To often we are sitting with large numbers and not enough teachers supplied by the government. That pushes up school fees. Schools have to hire extra teachers to make classes smaller to provide better education. Their are many of us who work tirelessly to try and make this profession a real profession again. But we need help, we need parents to become more involved in the running of the schools. We need them to stand up and be disgusted by the education their children are receiving in some schools.

      piet.motsoeneng - 2012-11-16 22:25

      Kerri, I understand what you are saying, but my question is, who would like his/her kid to be refused enrollment for whatever reason? Even for the reasons you mentioned above, how would you feel if someone would say your child will not go to school this year because of shortage or educators? I believe that education is a right not a previlage and the SGB should not decide which kid will get that right and which will not get it, it cant be fair for the kids.

      kerri.barlow.5 - 2012-11-16 22:31

      Its the governments duty to provide more schools or teachers. I agree we shouldn't have to refuse learners. Be we do or we have to charge more. Education is a right, but it needs the support of the government and the community if it is to flourish. Putting 40 children in a classroom then they might as well not have an education. You cannot help those who are weak, and those who are bright do not get challenged. The teacher is stressed discipline becomes an issue. Let's fix the problem not make the situation worse.

      piet.motsoeneng - 2012-11-16 22:38

      You see, I believe its all about willpower, if we have a problem, we should find a solution and make the bets witj the little that we have. Even if we exclude one child, its one too many. No child deserves to take a back seat because adults cant find solutipns for the problems that they have, the child cant pay for that, whith his/her future nogal.

      piet.motsoeneng - 2012-11-16 22:41

      Or lets look at it like this Kerri, the adults which are the parents, have a problem antey cant solve it, then they decide to make that problem the child's, how can that be fair for the poor kid?

      kerri.barlow.5 - 2012-11-16 22:41

      I'm glad we have people like you working in our education department.

      douglas.crouse.14 - 2012-11-16 22:47

      Odd though, we need more teachers in our schools especially here in bfn. Yet as a math and physical science teacher. I have struggled to find a departmental post, only thing schools can offer me is an SGB post.

      piet.motsoeneng - 2012-11-16 22:59

      I understand the problem that you ar talking about Douglas especially for Free State, but I guess we should understand that the staff crisis is not only applicable for educators only, it is also a problem for office based educators as well as admin staff. Having said that, we should accept that we have a problem in our hands and we should ensure that we put the interests of children first, by ensuring that every kid who is supposed to be in class, is in class no matter how difficult it is. As for departmental post, its difficult to solve that problem with the financial problems that Free State has at the moment, lets just hope for the best especially with the field that you specialise in you stand a good chance.

      piet.motsoeneng - 2012-11-16 23:11

      Thank you Kerri, I am also glad we have teachers like you who are willing to engage in discussions such as these.

  • andrew.crole.50 - 2012-11-17 08:52

    Just to enlighten all of the commentators. The SGB chairperson of Rivonia is black. The SGB vice chairperson is black. The children of the school are majority black. Lets not make this a colour issue. Lets give our children what they deserve!

  • debduplessis - 2012-11-17 11:49

    Good news.... Kids deserve to be able to get the tuition we parents are PAYING for at astronomical rates!

      debduplessis - 2012-11-17 12:15

      the government should remember that in most schools only 30% of kids parents are actually paying school fees - for every child they place one at a time puts extra stress on the parents who are being put under extreme financial pressure to pay the existing fees. every extra child placed on their instruction shoots our fees up & we also have to cope with greed government increases in every other sphere!

  • debduplessis - 2012-11-17 14:10

    by Bergvliet High School principal, Stephen Price's open letter to South African president Jacob Zuma says it all: .... But what example do you set? Instead of building up, you break down. Lack of school sport structures, bureaucratic interference in performing schools, constant changes to curriculum, lack of text books, lack of community infrastructure and your lip service to policy that outlines wonderful aims and objectives. We couldn’t wait for you to deliver. So we did it ourselves. Our parents got involved, paid their school fees, supported our teachers, gave them benefits that you should have provided and this allowed my staff to give more and more. Do I hear the hadedas shouting ‘former Model C school’ at this point? Probably....but that’s your fault I’m afraid. You’ve not done enough to raise the level of involvement in education. We witness the collapse of the Eastern Cape Education dept, Limpopo and instead of solutions we have officials avoiding accountability, scurrying for cover and making excuses.

  • glen.e.huysamer - 2012-11-18 16:44

    The quicker we educate our children the quicker we will be rid of the ANC.

  • jacques.lucas1 - 2012-11-26 15:19

    What most of the comments miss is the departements role to ensure that schools are not overcrowed. These government departments have access to birth rates in all areas as well as voter roles in municipal areas and is not using this data to make addequate provision when people have to get education. Everybody has the right to QUALITY education and especially mother tongue education. I think the SGB's does great work in ensuring the best education for our kids. The problem is the Departement to don't actively fullfil their function and is now transferring their responsibility to the SGB. The departments lack of forward vision results in this whole debate! The problem is not the schools or the parents but the state!

  • jacques.lucas1 - 2012-11-26 15:20

    What most of the comments miss is the departements role to ensure that schools are not overcrowed. These government departments have access to birth rates in all areas as well as voter roles in municipal areas and is not using this data to make addequate provision when people have to get education. Everybody has the right to QUALITY education and especially mother tongue education. I think the SGB's does great work in ensuring the best education for our kids. The problem is the Departement to don't actively fullfil their function and is now transferring their responsibility to the SGB. The departments lack of forward vision results in this whole debate! The problem is not the schools or the parents but the state!

      joe.kirschbaum.5 - 2013-01-11 17:31

      overcrowded schools, possible shortage of teachers and textbooks, just cannot equal quality education

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