cold echoes of '76

Alfred Moselakgomo

Alfred Moselakgomo

Mpumalanga's Hoërskool Ermelo suffered another blow on Friday when its appeal to retain its status as an Afrikaans-only school was thrown out by the Pretoria high court.

Last Thursday the Mpumalanga education department suspended school principal Jacobus Kruger after he opposed a directive instructing him to admit English-speaking pupils.

The pupils were placed in the school hall and have not been taught since schools reopened two weeks ago.

Last Friday the school made an urgent application to the Pretoria high court seeking to stop the department from forcing it to teach English. The application was turned down.

When 113 pupils wanted to be taught in English last year the department used it as an excuse to put pressure on the school to change its policy.

The school management took the department to court, alleging it had not followed correct procedures in declaring that the school was dual-medium, but the school lost.

The court said the insensitivity displayed towards students who did not want to be taught in Afrikaans was shocking.

It said the department ultimately carried the responsibility to ensure that children received an education and that facilities are made available.

The Young Communist League condemned the school's attitude.

League spokesman Castro Ngobese said the action reflected the "laager mentality" and rekindled the Soweto uprisings after Afrikaans was imposed on African schools.

"We view these actions as undermining the political advances we have made in the transformation of the education system in our country over the past 13 years of our democratic dispensation," Ngobese said.

Johan Erns, chairman of the Hoërskool Ermelo School Governing Board, said the department had failed to provide English teaching materials.

He said: "The department has failed to provide English-speaking pupils with enough teachers and, books and this caused the delay in teaching them."

But departmental spokesman Hlahla Ngwenya rubbished the allegations as unfounded.