06/02/2018 11:17 SAST | Updated 06/02/2018 11:17 SAST

Hoërskool Overvaal: This Is Why The Education Dept Is Appealing

The Gauteng department of education's legal documents outline reasons for appealing judgment.

A South African riot police officer stands guard at the main entrance of Hoërskool Overvaal on January 18, 2017 in Vereeniging.

The Gauteng department of education has submitted its application to appeal the judgment made by Judge Bill Prinsloo last month, which stated that Hoërskool Overvaal was not obliged to admit pupils who wish to be instructed in English.

The affidavit submitted to the Constitutional Court states that Hoërskool Overvaal is a "public school with duties to the community which it is situated in".

The department also states that only half of the pupils from Overvaal live in the feeder area, according to a capacity audit that was conducted at the end of January.

"More than half the learners at the school are learners who reside outside the 5km radius stipulated in the admissions regulations and ordinarily would not qualify to be admitted in the school except if those learners whose parents worked 5km within the 5km radius or a sibling in the school (sic)."

"The department maintains that it has excess brick and mortar classrooms capacity relative to neigbouring schools."

According to the court documents, the school's governing body has insisted that it must be a single-medium school, which the department says means that, over 20 years after democracy, Overvaal "remains an almost exclusively white school".

The department also states that the school's argument that it has no capacity is not entirely true.

"The department maintains that it has excess brick and mortar classrooms capacity relative to neigbouring schools (sic)," [Phoenix and Jan Smuts High] it said in its affidavit.

The department also states there have been lengthy discussions with the school's governing body since 2016, with little headway, as the governing body would not budge.

'The department seeks to bring calm'

The education department says it was trying to avoid even more protest action in the area in the 2019 academic year.

Earlier this year, angry community members who accused the school of using language to exclude black children protested in front of the school, leading to its temporary closure. The protests were led by political parties as well as unions in the area. This resulted in clashes between police and protesters, which saw many injured or arrested.

The department says it will be in the school's and the community's best interest for the court to rule in its favour so that learners who wish to be instructed in English can be accommodated.

"The department seeks to bring calm to the situation at Hoërskool Overvaal."

Pontsho Mabena
Protesters burn a tyre outside the school.

The judgment by Judge Prinsloo had caused "controversy", according to the affidavit, and if the ruling is overturned, this could end squabbles in the community in 2019.

The department says it is trying to "protect other learners in 2019 from suffering the fate that the 55 learners suffered this year in court hearings".