Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

The Gauteng education department says it is puzzled by Hoërskool Overvaal’s refusal to admit 55 pupils despite evidence that it has space.

Parents of the learners denied access to the Vereeniging school are adamant that the only reason the school does not want their children is that they are black.

The school approached the High Court in Pretoria to overturn the Gauteng education department’s administrative decision forcing the school to accept an additional 55 pupils from the area.

The school’s governing body argues in court papers that the school is full and has no capacity to accommodate learners.

But the department’s spokesperson‚ Steve Mabona‚ said this was not true as the school currently had 621 pupils and there was evidence that it had the capacity to accommodate more than 800.

Mabona said they did not instruct the school to change its medium of instruction‚ which is Afrikaans‚ but only to adopt a dual medium of instruction to accommodate English.

"We do not understand why the school would not want to admit our learners there because we said we are supporting them‚ offered to give them an educator‚ learner material is there‚ so we do not understand why there would be any resistance to accommodate other learners‚" he said.

Mabona said the school was dwindling in numbers but it used language policy to deny access to learners.

Thoriso Mofokeng‚ a parent of one of the barred learners and chairperson of Hoërskool Overvaal Transformation Committee‚ said the school’s attitude was motivated by racial prejudice.

He said the matter was important because the school was the only high school in the area‚ which covered about six suburbs.

Mofokeng said other high schools were more than 15km away and some learners from the area had to wake up as early as 4am to prepare for school, which started at 7.45am.

He said some parents spend about R6‚000 a month for their children to go to schools outside the area‚ passing Hoërskool Overvaal on their way.

Mofokeng said the school had denied access to learners from the area but accommodated white learners from as far away as Vanderbijlpark‚ Falcon Ridge and Parys.

On Tuesday‚ Judge Bill Prinsloo postponed the matter to Thursday to give himself and the department’s lawyer‚ Kumbirai Toma‚ time to peruse the school’s replying affidavit.