24/01/2018 10:31 SAST | Updated 24/01/2018 10:31 SAST

Government, Unions Agree To Calm Hoërskool Overvaal Tensions

Parents, protesters and police have been clashing at the school since last week over the school's language and admission policies.

A member of SADTU faces policemen during protests at Hoërskool Overvaal in Vereeniging.  January 22, 2018
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A member of SADTU faces policemen during protests at Hoërskool Overvaal in Vereeniging. January 22, 2018

The national department of basic education (DBE) and Gauteng education department, along with bodies representing teachers and parents of children at Hoërskool Overvaal, have committed to working together to de-escalate tensions at the school while they consult with the various constituencies.

"The safety of learners and the return of normal teaching and learning is paramount in this situation and cannot be compromised," the DBE has stated.

On Monday, basic education minister Angie Motshekga, Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi, the Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwysersunie (SAOU) and school governing body organisation Fedsas had a meeting about the protest action outside the school over the past week.

Both the SAOU and Fedsas have been highly critical of the way in which Lesufi has handled the matter.

Community members, supported by EFF and ANC supporters, resorted to protesting outside the school from the beginning of the academic year last Wednesday.

"The various stakeholders consulted agreed to respect the legal processes as it unfolds."

This follows the ruling last Monday by the High Court in Pretoria that 55 English-speaking pupils not be admitted to the Afrikaans single-medium school due to its lack of capacity.

The Gauteng education department and protesting community members believe that Afrikaans is being used to exclude the learners from the school because they are black.

READ: 'Afrikaans Has Been Used to Exclude Many From Schools' -- Equal Education

The DBE said that despite the Gauteng education department's plans to appeal the judgement, all parties have agreed that the court decision on the matter stands.

"The various stakeholders consulted agreed to respect the legal process as it unfolds. It was agreed that those who have an interest in this matter are welcome to join the court application as friends of the court," the department said.

Motshekga also expressed her dismay at the destruction of property and the clashes between school parents, police and angry community members during the protest.

"We are all deeply concerned and disappointed in developments taking place outside the school – and for this reason, despite our difference of opinion on the matter, we have decided it is extremely important to come together with a common goal of restoring order to that school," the minister said.