NEWS
27/01/2018 08:04 SAST | Updated 27/01/2018 09:16 SAST

Political Parties Gained 'Mileage' Off Hoërskool Overvaal Protests, Says School's SGB Chair

"The mileage they [political parties] get out of exclusion is a lot more than the mileage of solving the problem of not [having] enough schools".

Queenin Masuabi

Political parties and unions protesting outside Hoërskool Overvaal for the last two weeks have done so mostly to score political points, says chairperson of the School Governing Body (SGB) Hardus Visagie.

Visagie on Friday told HuffPost he sees the SGB matter as a "political problem" and criticised political parties for taking advantage of the situation. This is the first time the school's SGB has spoken out since a wave of protests, some violent, broke out following a High Court decision not to accept over 50 English-speaking learners into the school.

"The mileage they get out of exclusion is a lot more than the mileage of solving the problem of not [having] enough schools, that's unfortunately how it is," he said.

According to Visagie the blame has been shifted from government officials who are really responsible for the shortage of schools in the area.

"Our aim is to give these kids who are this school the best opportunity to learn in the safest environment possible. Because someone is not doing their job, all of a sudden all schools have to make sure they have space for 30 000 kids," he said.

Hoërskool Overvaal has been the scene of continuous protest since the High Court in Pretoria's decision that the school should not admit English-speaking pupils.

Overvaal is an Afrikaans single-medium school, and has been accused of using its language policy to exclude these pupils.

"The problem with capacity is, by law the department has put a formula in place for capacity, that has not happened yet. It's not regulated, nothing is gazetted in terms of how you determine capacity."

Visagie highlights that one of the key reasons why the department is experiencing problems regarding placements is due to the lack of legislation regarding capacity.

"The problem with capacity is, by law, the department has put a formula in place for capacity, that has not happened yet. It's not regulated, nothing is gazetted in terms of how you determine capacity."

At the moment the ratio is that for every teacher there should be 40 learners, according to the standard put forward by the department of education.

That is supposed to be determined by the physical space, the amount of teachers available and the curriculum that is been taught at the school.

Overvaal and many other schools have formulated their own policy regarding the capacity.

READ: Overvaal DID Place 3 Of The 55 Students, Says Governing Body

Visagie says the department's expectations regarding capacity are unrealistic.

"Irrespective of the class size, all schools aren't or weren't built the same. This school [Overvaal] was built in 1980, It was built to specific standard and size, if you go to general Smuts [Jan Smuts High] in town,that is a completely different standard."

He continued: "And yet the department of education says the golden rule is one to to 40, you can't do that. You need to physically measure the size of a class then measure the size of the desk, the chair, the physical space that a learner needs and then you can calculate how many learners you can fit into a class."

He claims that the government knew that a capacity "problem" was looming 10 years ago.

Pontsho Mabena
Sadtu march to Hoerskool Overvaal.

According to the headcount done by the department this past week, there are currently 668 children attending the school.

We are about 10 percent above, lets call it, safe capacity. If all 55 were accepted they would be almost 100 more pupils that we supposed to have.

Visagie criticises the government's plan to employ one person to teach the 55 English-speaking learners.

"They didn't talk to us. They just said what they were going to do. As per court papers, the department has no rights to appoint a teacher. There is a certain process which needs to be taken."

According to the court papers the government promised to also provide the school with additional resources including desks and teaching materials. However, the school strongly disputed these actions because the department had, "not gone through any of those legally required processes."

He also says capacity at the school is determined by how many pupils pass in grades 9-12.

"The amount that can come in, in grade eight is determined by the matrics going out. We budget for a 10% failure rate in all our grades."

*HuffPost has at the time of publishing not received a response to our request from the Gauteng education department for comment on the issues discussed in this story.