School Wins Right to Set Language Policy in Cape Case

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed Jun 29 13:44:30 UTC 2005

>>From AllAfrica Global Media (

School Wins Right to Set Language Policy in Cape Case

Business Day (Johannesburg) June 28, 2005

By Sue Blaine

SCHOOL governing bodies' right to determine language policy was further
entrenched by the Supreme Court of Appeal yesterday. The court dismissed
with costs an application by Western Cape education MEC Cameron Dugmore
and his department against a Cape High Court's ruling that a Cape Town
primary school's language policy should be set by its governing body.

The appeal court has reinforced Judge Wilfred Thring's January order that
Dugmore and the Western Cape education department acted illegally in
ordering that Mikro Primary School, an Afrikaans-medium school in Kuils
River, accommodate 21 English-speaking pupils. Dugmore's department
claimed the pupils could not be placed elsewhere in the Kuils River area.

Western Cape education department spokesman Gert Witbooi said the
department was disappointed because it had acted in what it believed was a
legitimate manner, seeking to fulfil its legal duty to ensure universal
access to education. "We are very disappointed, but we are still studying
the judgment and considering our options," Witbooi said. One of these
would be to turn to the Constitutional Court. However, Witbooi said the
department was not yet sure what action it would take, if any.

The appeal court ruling was welcomed by the Freedom Front Plus, which said
it confirmed that school governing bodies were allowed to determine
language policy. The party also asked why no English-medium schools had
been forced to become double-medium schools. "Why does this demand only
work in one direction?" said leader Dr Pieter Mulder.

Meanwhile, the Pan South African Language Board, a statutory body set up
to promote the development of all SA's languages, has submitted written
argument as a friend of the court in a separate Kimberley High Court
application by three Northern Cape schools against a provincial decision
to enforce dual-medium tuition. The Afrikaans-medium school had been
ordered to become dual-medium in order to relieve overcrowding in the one
English-medium school.

The board's senior legal adviser, Edward Sambo, said the submissions were
a request that the court kept in mind the constitution's pro-multilingual
intent. "We are saying the court should pronounce on the facts but also on
the obligation of organs of state to promote multilingualism," he said.
The department's attorney, Papi Motingoe, said there were major
differences between the Mikro case and the problems in the Northern Cape
schools. Motingoe said there were other schools that Western Cape pupils
could attend where they could be taught in English. "We don't have such

AllAfrica Global Media (

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