Cape Town – The Centre for Child Law has hailed a Constitutional Court judgment that found private schools may not impair children’s right to basic education.
The court yesterday affirmed children’s right to a fair process or hearing in matters concerning the cancellation of private school contracts, as well as the right to participate and express their views on the impact a termination would have on them.
The matter before the court relates to two children who found themselves in the middle of a conflict between independent school Pridwin Preparatory School and their father when the school excluded the children due to problematic behaviour of their father.
When the children, who had attended the school from 2012 to 2016, were admitted, a contract was signed between the father and the school.
The school cancelled the contract and the children had to leave the school at the end of the 2016 academic year. Court action soon followed, with the father launching an application asking the South Gauteng High Court to declare the
decision to cancel the contract unconstitutional, unlawful and invalid.
The centre was admitted as a friend of the court, and argued that Section 28(2) of the Constitution, which
provides for the right of the child to have his or her best interests taken as a primary consideration, affords children a procedural right to a fair process or hearing and "required Pridwin Preparatory School to take into account the best interests of the two children and follow a fair and determinable process before deciding to exclude the children".
"This included providing the children with an opportunity to make representations on the effect the termination of the contract would have on them,” the centre said.
Equal Education (EE), also admitted as a friend of the court, said the judgment would not only affect elite independent schools, but also the rights of pupils from poor and working-class families who attended low-fee independent schools.
“EE also welcomes the clarity that has been provided by the Constitutional Court on the relationship between sections 29(1)(a) and 29(3) of the Constitution as they relate to the constitutional obligations on private schools,” the organisation said.