Newspaper clipping – iol online – 14 October 2009

Unfair language policy: Department blasted

The Constitutional Court ruled on Wednesday that the Mpumulanga education department acted unlawfully when it forced a school to change its language policy. But the Constitutional Court also ordered the school governing body of Hoerskool Ermelo to review its language policy, which gives preference to Afrikaans speaking children.
“The school governing body of Hoerskool Ermelo must review and determine a language policy in terms of ….the Constitution,” said deputy chief judge Dikgang Moseneke.

Meanwhile, the Mpumulanga education department was ordered to report back to the Constitutional Court on how it was planning to solve the problem of over-population in schools.

In January 2007, Hoerskool Ermelo, an Afrikaans medium school, said it could only accommodate a group of English speaking children if they were prepared to receive tuition in Afrikaans.

In terms of the South African Schools Act 84 of 1996, a school’s language policy is determined by that school’s governing body.

The English medium schools in Ermelo could not take the group because they did not have space for more pupils. Not all of them could be accommodated at Hoerskool Ermelo because they did not want to be taught in Afrikaans. About two weeks later, the head of the education department (HOD) urgently withdrew the function of the governing body to determine the school’s language policy and appointed an interim committee to perform the function. The committee decided to change the school’s language policy to a parallel medium.

The school challenged the HOD’s decision in the high court and lost. It then took the matter to the Supreme Court of Appeal and won. The HOD applied for leave to appeal to the Constitutional Court, arguing that its decisions were lawful. - Safa