Appealing decision on English and Afrikaans

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Tue Feb 22 14:30:37 UTC 2005

From: Independent On-Line


Dugmore to take Mikro finding to ConCourt

By Fatima Schroeder and Babalo Ndenze

Education MEC Cameron Dugmore is to appeal Friday's high court ruling
against his decree that 21 children be enrolled and taught in English at
Afrikaans-medium school Mikro Primary.

The court was highly critical of his behaviour in forcing the school to
abide by his decisions.

Department spokesperson, Gert Witbooi, said: "The MEC (and the department)
will seek leave to appeal against the court's decision directly to the
Constitutional Court on an urgent basis.

Alternatively leave will be sought from the high court to appeal to the
Supreme Court of Appeal as soon as possible. We are confident that a case
can be made out that it is in the interests of justice that the
Constitutional Court hear this very important matter as soon as possible,"
said the department.

Witbooi said Dugmore, the department, and the provincial government were
deeply disappointed at the decision of the court to set aside the decision
of Dugmore and the head of department, Ron Swartz.

But the Democratic Alliance (DA) has welcomed the judgment saying it was
"morally, logically and legally defensible".

"Afrikaans speakers, like... all South Africans, are entitled to choose
mother tongue education. School governing bodies may determine their
school's language policy and do not have to introduce other languages if
learners have reasonable access to other schools offering education in
their language of choice," said DA education spokesperson Helen Zille.

The Cape High Court strongly criticised the actions of Dugmore and Swartz
in forcing the 21 children onto the school and their insistence they be
offered tuition in English.

The court has ordered that Dugmore and Swartz place the children at an
alternative school.

If this cannot be done by March 18, the senior Western Cape government
officials will have to submit monthly reports to the school's governing
body to explain what steps were taken to place them elsewhere until the
pupils have been suitably accommodated.

In December last year, Swartz addressed a letter to the principal of the
school in which he issued instructions for the school to accommodate an
additional 21 students and that they be taught in English.

Days later an appeal was lodged against the directive, but on January 19,
this year - the first day of school - Dugmore dismissed the appeal.

The following day, the school and its governing body lodged a Cape High
Court application to have the directive set aside.

In a judgment delivered on Friday, Justice Wilfred Thring said: "It is
undoubtedly true that each of the 21 children here concerned have the
right (in terms of the constitution) to choose the official language or
languages in which they wish their children to be educated.

"It is also no doubt desirable and convenient for a child to be educated
at the school nearest to his or her home, if that is practicable. It is
also correct, it seems, that when 40 or more children in a particular
grade between Grades one and six at a particular school request tuition in
a particular official language, the provincial education department is
placed under an obligation by the norms and standards to provide it.

"It may also be that demographic changes sometimes render that obligation
a difficult one for the department to perform, for various practical

"However, in my view none of these things can justify the (MEC and Head of
the Department) summarily riding roughshod over the school's language
policy and treating it as if it did not exist, or did not matter," said

He said that, according to the department's own criterion, a school is
only regarded full when the ratio of pupils to classrooms was in excess of
35 or 38 to one.

This article was originally published on page 4 of The Cape Times on
February 21, 2005

Published on the Web by IOL on 2005-02-21 08:39:00

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