File picture: Independent Media

Pretoria - An Afrikaans medium school which is at the centre of a court fight over dozens of English speaking pupils which the Gauteng Education Department wants it to accommodate has opted to turn unused classrooms into specialised rooms instead.

According to state advocate Kumbirai Thoma, the renovations at Hoërskool OverVaal were done without the Department of Basic Education’s authorisation.

Thoma was responding on the third day of proceedings in the North Gauteng High court, in Pretoria, over the school's insistence to prevent the department from forcing it to admit 55 English speaking learners into the school.

The court also heard how other high schools in the area were making alterations to take in more learners.

Advocate Albert Lamey, representing Hoërskool OverVaal, had previously told the court that the school had reached its capacity and that the decision on the language policy of the school was the realm for the school's governing body (SGB).

Read more: Hoërskool OverVaal: 'All we asked for was dual-medium'

Thoma refuted that assertion insisting that decisions surrounding language policy had to be certified by the Head of Department which was not the case with Hoërskool OverVaal as their's had been rejected.

He said while the school had been given permission to convert one class they had gone over and above that and converted more.

He said: “During the construction of the school, 23 classes were initially built. They were given the go-ahead to change one but they then went and changed four.”

Even with the 17 classrooms currently being utilised by the school, the addition of the 55 learners would still be accommodated with the school not going over their capacity.

Also read: Court fight after pupils barred from Vereeniging school

Thoma said the issue was not about the capacity of the school but rather about a language policy that was used to block English speaking learners in.

“General Smuts is standing with over 1500 learners when their capacity is 1200. However the school has even gone and built asbestos classes to accommodate the need,” he said.

Thoma added: “Meanwhile while they noticed and tried to assist with the need OverVaal was turning classrooms into specialised classes.”

Regarding consultation which the school Thoma brought to the court's attention the minutes of a meeting between stakeholders earlier in 2017 regarding the need for English classes.

That as there were three primary schools in the feeder area, two of which were English medium and one parallel-medium.

Thoma said taking into consideration that the high school was the only one in the area there was a high demand for space.

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