I myself encountered this problem when in april last year my mother approached me because she had lost her fight with the local school in her suburb, in fact the only school in her suburb. The school refused to accept the two girls (my sisters) because they were “too full and had no books for them”.
I made an appointment with the principle, we spoke, i came with all sorts of legal jargon but for the most part i was pretty straight forward that it was a travesty of justice that these two girls (who have good grades) were not admitted. However he made it clear there was no room for them. I simply told him that this school has a responsibility toward these children and the fact that there is a waiting list is of no consequence. I said to him its April for pete’s sake, if you take them now they still have a chance to pass, however if you dont take them now they will fail or alternatively miss an entire year of schooling.
The case in the in question is Governing body of Rivonia primary school v Mec for education Gauteng which in my opinion was decided incorrectly under a constitutional dispensation. As a law student im not qualified to give advise or take money for legal services, i am however entitled to form an opinion. My opinion is the same one which i gave to the above principle, that being that regardless of what your governing body sais, or does, the admission of kids should be done in accordance with the constitution. The constitution provides that everyone has a right to basic education and further that we all have rights to just administration should we feel the dept of education or a public school via its principal has treated us unfairly. The admission of one or two students is not going to overwhelm the school to point that the infrastructure of the school may collapse or even worse overcrowd the class room to the point of anarchy. No this wont happen. The waiting list nonsense is just that, i said to him its April and i dont see anyone else here.
I managed to get my two sisters admitted just in time and they managed to pass the year, which was great. I felt a sense of pride that i could help them and that they succeeded against the odds after missing almost half the year. This is just one example of people like my mother getting wheeled over by the system and those in public power. My mother didnt know any of this legal jargon or some of the other nuggets of information i managed to find in the schools act and other interesting cases. The schools know this and like in my sister’s case simply shoo them away without a care. In fact i had my sisters accepted before the end of that day, and i did so without any drama (as in the case above) or shenanigans. The principle phoned my about two hours later to tell me to send the girls over to collect documents and text books.
Personally i think the lady in the above case could have gotten her child in if she just treated the school with a quantum of respect, this she did not do, instead she insulted them and attempted to use her influence with the dept of education to force the school to take her child, which in my mind is absurd.
She simply needed to persist and use the available resources to her, the governing body, court ect…this is called just administrative action. Her type of action seemed to be more of a Rambo action if you know what i mean. I agree with the court that it is unacceptable that one can use the dept of education to simply dump your child in a classroom of your choice, there would be chaos if we as parents took it upon ourselves or for that matter the dept of education to simply dump our kids wherever we saw fit….what an absurdity. I can only imagine the expense this case has accumulated and shudder to think of the total cost of litigation, in my case it cost my mother zero, just her law student son to speak to the principle with the respect he and his institution deserve, they have tight budgets, no space and little time, i made it clear to him i understand his position clearly, BUT i have two girls with no place to go and if you dont take them then its off to the newspaper and the dept of education for recourse, now who will win that battle?? Well i didnt allow it to get there, no.
Schools have a responsibility to children in their “feeder” area or those areas where the family lives or where the parents work, also the constitutional angle cannot be overlooked, nor can the other avenues available to parents. The above case is a prime example of how NOT to do it, lets hope parents in the future will learn that a stiff hand approach to matters of this kind will not work and will most likely lead to expensive litigation that may not be successful in any case. I understood that the school may be over burdened with other kids and lack of resources and i made it clear to the principle so he could see that i wasnt an android or some other form of life that “doesnt care” or doesnt want to hear about his problems..That i must admit is the wrong approach, because if you dont care about his problem why should he care about yours? you dont care for his school, then why are you applying there?
Lets just treat each other with a bit more respect and im sure we will get what we need and not what we want.