Victory for parents

A landmark ruling against the Department of Education
could change the government’s influence on schools
around the country.
In 2010, education officials put pressure on Rivonia
Primary School , Johannesburg, to enrol a grade one pupil .
At the time, the pupil was on the school’s waiting list.
However, the department forced the school to accept the
child. This resulted in a court battle as the school argued
only it and the governing body had the right to decide how
many pupils can be admitted to the school.
Recently, Gerrit Pretorius, a lawyer for the school, explained
that it had become the norm for government to interfere
and over-rule school governing bodies (SGBs).
"It is absolutely clear that capacity is set by the SGB. It is a
burning issue, not just in Gauteng but in other provinces.
With regards to admission policy, there must come a point
[when schools say] ‘We cannot take more’," said Pretorius.
Danny Berger, lawyer for Gauteng’s Education MEC Barbara
Creecy, said SGBs did not have the final say on admission
policies and the setting of schools’ capacity.
He added that these powers could be over-ruled in some
instances, because the MEC was charged with the
responsibility to place every child in a school.
However, the Supreme Court ruled in the school’s favour,
giving it the exclusive right to finalise enrolments without
any involvement from the government. Charles Phalane,
spokesman for the Department of Education, said they
were still studying the judgement and a decision would be
made thereafter.
Paul Lategan, who represented the school since the case
began, said history had been made. "The main thing here is
that there is clarity on who determines capacity within a
school. The rules for the governing body should be kept
sacred at all times," he said.
Lategan added that it had been a rollercoaster ride for his
legal team as they had to endure racial abuse at the hands
of bystanders. In addition, Lategan stated the department
had tried to intimidate the school’s principal, Carol Drydale,
by bringing a disciplinary hearing against her.
Lategan states that this was an attempt to get Drysdale to
resign from her post. On wether the school was ready to
take on the government at the Constitutional Court, Lategan
said the school would abide by the law.
"Although we are the victors, the Constitutional Court is
clear on the rules and regulations of this country. It’s sad
that the government had to waste money on this when that
money could have been used to build another school even.
We should have been able to sit down and talk about this as
partners, because educating children is important to the
both of us."


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