17/01/2023 - Fedsas
The school governing body of Hoërskool Ellisras will ask the High Court in Polokwane today to force the provincial education department not to enroll more learners at the school. The school, a parallel-medium school in Lephalale, can accommodate some 400 learners according to a safety evaluation but more than 800 learners are already enrolled at the school. Now the provincial education department is forcing the school to admit another 44 learners.
“In the first place, the provincial department is acting unlawfully as admissions is the function of the school governing body. But in this case, there is an additional and even more urgent aspect – there are structural problems with the school building and over-crowded classes are adding to the problem,” says Dr. Jaco Deacon, CEO of the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools. FEDSAS is supporting the SGB in its court application.
Deacon says the structural challenges were pointed out after the tragic events at Hoërskool Driehoek in 2019. Four learners died when a bridge collapsed at this school. “According to engineering reports, it is imperative that Hoërskool Ellisras reduces learner numbers because of these structural issues. For three years running, these reports were sent to the provincial education department but to date, nothing has been done.”
Deacon says in February last year the provincial education department also abused its power to place additional learners at the school. Only after mediation by the National Department of Basic Education did the provincial department back down. Now, despite documentary evidence, the provincial department is claiming that this meeting never took place.
“This abuse of power is yet another taste of what is to come should the proposed changes to school legislation (Bela) be approved. Parents, guardians, and communities should make use of every opportunity to comment on the Bela bill. Otherwise, the consequences of such abuse of power will be the reality of all schools.”
Deacon says after nearly three decades many government officials still do not understand that there are no state or government schools in South Africa. “We have public schools governed by communities. In the case of Hoërskool Ellisras the State has failed the community and is now gambling with learners’ safety to drive a political agenda.”