The parents of 55 English-speaking pupils reacted angrily to a ruling by the High Court in Pretoria setting aside the Gauteng education department’s bid to force Afrikaans Höerskool Overvaal in Vereeniging to admit them.
They waved their fists at the Afrikaans parents of the school, vowing they would not allow “these racists” to open the school tomorrow, when the new teaching year starts, and threatening to burn it down.
Judge Bill Prinsloo ruled yesterday that a December 5 directive to the school from the Sedibeng East district education director stating that tomorrow it must admit an additional 55 English-speaking pupils and become a dual-medium of instruction school on short notice was unlawful.
He also found that the district director, Criselda Makhubela, was clearly biased and had attempted to defeat the ends of justice by, in effect, bullying the principals of two neighbouring English schools to recant their evidence under oath that their schools had space for these pupils.
In her affidavit, Makhubela referred to Afrikaans as a separatist language that caused sorrow and tears.
The judge said it was difficult to see how one could expect her to be unbiased towards the school in the light of those sentiments.
He granted a punitive costs order against the head of the Gauteng education department and the district education director.
The judge found that according to objective evidence, Overvaal was already full by the time they were ordered to accept the additional pupils.
He also found that the neighbouring English Phoenix High School and General Smuts High School did, in fact, have places for them.
The judge said the district director could not just ride roughshod over the school’s language policy by dictating that the school must become dual-medium overnight and in circumstances where there was no space for the extra pupils.
Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi referred to the school as racist, saying it was opposed to transformation and that its stance was depriving children of their constitutional right to education.
However, he called for calm and asked the English-speaking pupils’ parents not to take the law into their own hands.
He said the school’s victory would be short-lived, as the department would definitely appeal the ruling.
Panyaza added that the Gauteng education department would take the matter to the Constitutional Court to see if it “would agree with these racists”.