[lg policy] Afrikaans ‘sows racial division’ – Gauteng education dept

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Sat Jan 13 14:27:20 EST 2018

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02:15 pm
Afrikaans ‘sows racial division’ – Gauteng education dept
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Ilse de Lange
[image: Picture: Thinkstock]

Picture: Thinkstock
Judge Prinsloo will deliver judgment in the application on Monday

The governing body of the Hoërskool Overvaal in Vereeniging had to adapt to
changing demographics in the community but was using language to sow racial
division, the Gauteng Education Department has argued.

Counsel for the department, Kumbarai Toma, argued that as long as a learner
qualified in terms of the department’s admission criteria (which includes
living within 5km of the school), the school had to admit the learner –
whatever the language was – and leave the issue of how the learner would be
taught to the department .

The school has asked the High Court in Pretoria to set aside the
department’s 5 December directive that it must admit 55 additional English
learners and thereby convert to a dual medium school.

Toma said Overvaal was the only secondary school servicing five suburbs
which were now multi-racial, there was a high demand for English and the
two English schools in the area were already full to over capacity, apart
from being too far.

He said the community had been up in arms and demanding English classes at
the school since 2016, prompting the department to ask the school to change
its language policy but the school’s governing body made it clear that it
“would never happen”.

Toma quoted the Constitutional Court ruling confirming  the University of
the Free State’s English-only policy, saying Overvaal’s refusal to admit
learners based on language sowed racial division.

Judge Bill Prinsloo pointed out that the country officially had Portuguese,
German, Greek and other schools and it was officially recognized “to have
the odd Afrikaans school”.

Toma argued that the department, which had the sole responsibility for
admissions, had already admitted 38 English learners to the school in July
last year but the school refused to admit them based only on language.

The school even admitted 20 more Afrikaans pupils after the 5 December
instruction to admit the 55 English learners so language and not capacity
was the real issue, he added.

“There is no attack on the existence of single medium schools, but the
dynamics of the community have changed and the SGB must adapt,” he said.

Although the principals of two neighbouring English schools said under oath
their schools had the capacity to accommodate the extra 55 learners, Toma
argued that their affidavits were based on the wrong information, they have
since recanted their versions and it was clear that the schools were
already over capacity.

Judge Prinsloo remarked that the principals – pillars of society – had set
out in detail why they had the capacity, but two days later the department
handed in “handwritten barely legible little notes” saying they had made a

Toma argued that Overvaal actually had 23 classrooms, but converted four of
those for speciality subjects without the department’s permission, which
meant the school was below capacity.


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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