Rivonia Primary school. Picture: Steve Lawrence

Johannesburg -

Rivonia Primary School is in the middle of another admissions row, with a parent accusing the school of racially discriminating against his son.

Mr Govender* said he applied for his five-year-old son to start Grade R at the school next year.

The application process for admission at the school’s Grade R facility, managed by the school governing body (SGB) and not the provincial Department of Education, opened on February 1.

Govender, whose home is 2.5km from the school, said they submitted their son’s application the next day.

Parents applying for Grade R are required to pay a R300 non-refundable admission fee. On March 5, the Govenders received an e-mail from the school, notifying them that their child’s application was unsuccessful.

The email, signed off by the school’s principal, Carol Drysdale, said: “Please be advised that Grade 0 is a privately run educational facility and is not governed by the Department of Education and its policies. We have had a high number of sibling applicants for next year and the demand for places exceeds capacity.”

Govender said that if the school had been full just days after the application period was opened, it should not have continued accepting applications from parents and the admission fee.

He accused the school of racial discrimination, saying: “I feel that loopholes are being used to prevent us into the school.”

Paul Lategan, who speaks on behalf of the SGB, said demand for places in the school’s Grade R facilities far exceeded the school’s capacity. He added that the Govenders’ application was incomplete.

“Our information brochure given to all applicants clearly states that “if the required information is incorrect, incomplete or documentation is missing, the application will not be processed and this will delay the evaluation of the application”.

“To this date, the Govenders’ documentation is incomplete,” Lategan said. “We will treat the comment on racial discrimination with the contempt it deserves.”


Govender, however, denied the documentation was incomplete.


He said the only thing outstanding was a testimonial, which was sent to the school. In an email dated February 19 that The Star has seen, a staffer confirms receiving the faxed testimonial.

Govender said the school’s claim that there were documents outstanding was a fabrication.

It is not the first time that the school has had to defend itself for not admitting a pupil. In 2011, a parent of a Grade 1 child objected when it rejected the application on the basis that it was full. The school said it had reached its capacity of 120 pupils for Grade 1.

The Gauteng Department of Education intervened and its head of department (HoD), Boy Ngobeni, instructed the school to admit the child.

The SGB took the case to the Johannesburg High Court, accusing department officials of violating its own rules after they “forcefully took control of the admissions function” and admitted a pupil. The court ruled in favour of the department, saying the SGB had “some autonomy but operates subject to the direction and oversight of the MEC and HoD.”

The SGB then went to the Supreme Court of Appeal, which overturned the high court ruling. The department then took the issue to the Constitutional Court. In a majority ruling, it declared that the HoD was “empowered to issue an instruction to the principal of the school to admit the learner in excess of the limit in its admission policy”.


* Not his real name

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The Star