Hoërskool Overvaal: Afrikaans a 'separatist language' - Gauteng Education

In affidavit dept says language symbolised 'sorrow and tears to the majority of those whom it was not their mother tongue' (with updates)

Gauteng education department, school in court over additional placements

Johannesburg – Hoërskool Overvaal in Vereeniging will head to the North Gauteng High Court on Tuesday to try and overturn a Gauteng education department decision forcing the school to accept an additional 55 pupils.

Hoërskool Overvaal's governing body brought the urgent application after the Gauteng education department took an administrative decision to place the pupils in the school, above the 142 pupils already accepted by the institution.

The 55 pupils all applied to Hoërskool Overvaal.

The school maintains that it has reached its capacity while the department said the pupils were denied places based on their language preference.

In its answering affidavit, the education department said language could not be used to segregate pupils.

The school's Afrikaans-only language policy was previously rejected by the education department.

Still fighting 'separatist language'

In its affidavit, the department said Afrikaans was a language that symbolised "sorrow and tears to the majority of those whom it was not their mother tongue".

"Today… we still fight the same separatist language exacerbated by a denial of transformation by certain sectors of society."

The department also maintained that it had the right to place the pupils at the school.

"A school governing body plays no part in the process of admission of learners and does not declare [that the school is filled to capacity] as that is the duty of the department."

It said the school, with 21 classrooms, has a capacity of 840 learners, but currently only accepts 621.

Additional furniture and textbooks have already been procured and an English educator will be appointed for the pupils, the department said.

The school is set to open for the 2018 academic year on January 17.


Update 1:

Hoërskool Overvaal admissions case postponed

Pretoria – An urgent application, lodged by Hoërskool Overvaal in Vereeniging, over a Gauteng education department decision forcing it to accept an additional 55 pupils, has been postponed.

The school, which is an Afrikaans medium of instruction school, has claimed that it is full and cannot accommodate the 55 pupils. It turned to the court for relief.

However, the department has rubbished the claims and said there was evidence which showed that the school has the space and that students were denied places based on their language preference.

The school’s governing body filed a lengthy affidavit on Tuesday in which it has replied to the department’s claims.

As a result, the department's advocate, Kumbira Toma, asked for a four-day postponement to study the submissions.

Judge Bill Prinsloo gave the department two days, but warned that the application was urgent and that recourse was needed as soon as possible.

"This is the sort of case where there must be a result, one way or the other, as soon as possible so everyone knows where he or she stands," Prinsloo said as he postponed the matter.

Gauteng department of education spokesperson Steve Mabona said they could not understand why the school has refused to take in the pupils, adding that the department offered to arrange an educator and learning material.

"We don’t understand the resistance to accommodate other learners," he said.

Outside of court, parents said they were forced to take their children to schools situated further away, as a result of the school’s refusal to accept them.

They said the high school covered children living in about six suburbs and added that it was costly to send their children to schools further away.

A parent and the chairperson of the transformation committee of Overvaal, Thloriso Mofokeng, said it was unfair that their children should wake up earlier to make their way to a school that is further away from their home.


Update 2:

Hoërskool Overvaal denies allegations of racial segregation

Pretoria – Hoërskool Overvaal has denied that it is using Afrikaans as a tool to exclude students from attending the school and that 55 pupils – who need placement - were not placed in the school as a result of racial segregation.

The school's governing body brought an urgent application before the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Tuesday in a bid to overturn a Gauteng education department's decision to place an additional 55 pupils at the school.

The school, which uses Afrikaans as a medium of instruction, has claimed that the school is full and cannot accommodate the additional pupils. It also claims that two schools that fall within the feeder zone have the capacity to accommodate the group.

The department however rubbished claims of the Vereeniging school's capacity being reached, saying there was evidence which showed the school had space and that students were denied places based on their language preference.


Parents who live near the high school in Vereeniging claim to pass the school every day in order to take their children to schools much further away, because their children have been excluded on what they claim are racial grounds.

The parents, who were also at the court, also echoed the sentiments of the department, saying that Hoërskool Overvaal was the only high school in the area which covered about six suburbs. They also said sending their children to other schools, which were as far as 15 kilometres away, proved more expensive.

"It's unfortunate that from where we are observing it, it's nothing but a racial issue, there is high racism that is taking place in that area and we believe that they are doing so to deny our children access [to] that school," said parent Thloriso Mofokeng.

In their replying affidavit, Hoërskool Overvaal's governing body chairperson Gerhardus Petrus Visagie said allegations of racial discrimination and the use of language to segregate were devoid of all truth.

"The department is also fully aware that the school has a number of black learners whose choice of language for education has been to be in Afrikaans who have been admitted in the past and have also been admitted for purposes of 2018," said Visagie.

He has also denied that that language was being used as a tool for segregation, saying that the Schools Act and the Gauteng Schools Education Act made provisions for language policy.

"This is not a case where the school intends to deprive English-speaking learners an opportunity to receive a basic education in circumstances where they cannot be accommodated in schools as a result of the fact that the neighbouring schools are full."

Visagie said had it been the case that additional English learners could not be accommodated in neighbouring schools, the approach of the school would have been different in the circumstances where the school had capacity.

Furthermore, Visagie said that he had communication from the headmasters of both Phoenix High School and General Smuts High School, which stated that they had capacity for the 55 pupils.

Both schools use English as a medium of instruction and, to some extent, overlap with the feeder zone of Hoërskool Overvaal, said Visagie.

The department's spokesperson Steve Mabona said the school could not use its language policy to exclude pupils from accessing the school.

"We will work tirelessly to make sure that schools are accessed as per a need, because if one resides in an area and wants to access a school. We don't see why a language needs to be used as a precursor of whether you can access the school or not," said Mabona.

He added that the defence that the school was at maximum capacity was also untrue.

The application was postponed to Thursday after the school's governing body submitted the lengthy replying affidavit on Tuesday. News24