Education department drops W Cape language case

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sat Jul 16 21:09:48 UTC 2005

>>From the Mail&Guardian online,

Education department drops W Cape language case

Cape Town, South Africa

15 July 2005 03:16

The Western Cape education department will not take the Mikro school
language case to the Constitutional Court, provincial minister of
education Cameron Dugmore said on Friday. He said this decision was taken
after consultation with both provincial Premier Ebrahim Rasool and the
national Department of Education, and in the light of several legal
opinions, some of which were that the department was "not guaranteed of
success" in the Constitutional Court.

"We obviously considered legal opinions, but we clearly looked at the
broader context in terms of how we need to move," he said. "We think it is
time to move on. We think is time to settle the matter." Mikro, an
Afrikaans-medium primary school in the Kuils River area, made headlines
earlier this year when it won a high court order against a directive by
the department to force it to teach a group of 21 pupils in English.

Dugmore and the department challenged that ruling in the Supreme Court of
Appeal, which found unanimously that the way the department unilaterally
imposed another language policy on Mikro was unlawful. Dugmore said on
Friday that Mikro's attorneys and the Legal Resources Centre, which has
been acting for the children, have been notified of the decision.

"Our decision has ... been greatly influenced by the need to try to seek a
solution to this local problem with the involvement of all role players,
because we have obviously been concerned at the polarisation, at the
perceived polarisation, which has resulted." He said he will meet the
school governing body on Monday evening to discuss the future of the 21
children, who are being taught in English in a special class at the school
at the moment, and will also talk to their parents.

The Supreme Court of Appeal said the children should be placed at another
school, but that this is to be done taking into account their best
interests. Dugmore said he is sure a solution acceptable to all will be
found for the rest of the year. His department will also be looking for
"creative and innovative"  proposals for 2006, when the shortage of
schools in the Kuils River area will still be a problem.

Dugmore said he will meet the Western Cape leadership of the Congress of
South African Students, which has threatened protests outside the school
when the term restarts on Monday, to put his view that this is a time for
"cool heads". "I'm hopeful that we will not have disruption on Monday," he
said. He said his department's commitment to access to quality education
and to the transformation of education is still on track.

The Mikro affair has in no way been an attack on single-medium schools,
which is a right he accepts. -- Sapa

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