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.
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