[lg policy] Department can’t ride roughshod over school language policy, says Judge

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Tue Jan 16 10:24:15 EST 2018


 Department can’t ride roughshod over school language policy, says Judge
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Ilse de Lange
[image: Photo: Supplied]

Photo: Supplied
The Judge set aside a December 5 directive by Sedibeng East district
director, Criselda Makhubela, that the school must admit 55 English
learners when it opens on Wednesday.

The Gauteng Education Department cannot ride roughshod over a school’s
language policy by merely instructing the school to admit English learners,
thereby forcing it to change its language policy, a High Court Judge has
said.

Judge Bill Prinsloo yesterday in the High Court in Pretoria set aside a
December 5 directive by Sedibeng East district director, Criselda
Makhubela, that the school must admit 55 English learners when it opens on
Wednesday.

Judge Prinsloo said there was compelling evidence that the school was
already full when the direction was issued and that there were place in the
two neighboring English Phoenix and General Smuts high schools, which were
both 8km from Overvaal.

Overvaal included affidavits in which both school’s principals said they
had more than enough space for the extra learners, but two days later said
in handwritten notes they were wrong and their schools were actually full.

The chairman of Overvaal’s school governing body said in an additional
affidavit the principals had told him they were called into Makhubela’s
office, accused of racism and threatened that they would be fired and would
lose their pensions if they didn’t recant.

Judge Prinsloo described the sudden about-turn as “sad” and said it was
clear that the department knew the evidence of the principals strongly
supported Overvaal’s case and exerted pressure on the principals to change
their version.

He said Makhubela had no authority to unilaterally change the school’s
language policy and it was clear that she was biased and uncompromising.

He referred to her affidavit in which she described Afrikaans as a
separatist language that caused sorrow and tears.

It was difficult to see how one could realistically expect any measure of
objectivity or fair play towards the embattled minority group and their
language by such a senior official intimately involved in these
proceedings, who was prepared to disclose her obvious bias in the answering
affidavit, he added.

“In my view, there are clear signs of an attempt by the district director
to defeat the ends of justice and I respectfully suggest that some senior
peers of hers may consider investigating her conduct< Judge Prinsloo said.

He said the head of the department must determine the entry level
enrollment capacity of a school, must declare it full and must have regard
to the school’s capacity to accommodate learners relative to other schools,
which in this case never happened.

If this was done, the head of the department would have discovered the
abundance of at least two other schools and would have been precluded from
placing any more learners at Overvaal, he added.

He said the placement of the extra learners offended against the norms and
standards for placement of learners at public schools and the department
insisted that laboratories at the school should be converted to classrooms
in the nick of time after the school was already full and closed for the
December holidays.

Any such attempt would not be in best interest of the school or it’s
learners as it would destroy the curriculum for specialist subjects that
were approved by the department, he added.

Judge Prinsloo stressed that learners could chose the language in which
they preferred to be instructed and where a school used the language of
learning not chosen by the learner, the school is not compelled to admit
the learner.

The Judge in addition granted a punitive costs order against the Head of
the Gauteng Education Department and the district director.


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 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
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/

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