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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

South Africa: Court to rule on Schweizer-Reneke teacher’s return

Zelda Venter 

The North West MEC for Education, Sello Lehari and his department, are no longer opposing the urgent application today by suspended Laerskool ­Schweizer-Reneke teacher Elana Barkhuizen to return to her post.

Lehari told labour union Solidarity late yesterday afternoon that he decided to withdraw his opposition to Barkhuizen’s urgent application before the Labour Court to have her suspension set aside.

Lehari indicated that he would abide by the decision of the court.

Lawyer Werner Human said the application was still on the roll and the case would go ahead as planned, as the court must rule on the legality of the suspension.

Both the school and its governing body earlier indicated that they, too, would abide by the court’s ruling.

Lehari and the department were due to deliver their opposing papers by 4pm on Monday, but missed the deadline. They informed Solidarity nearly 24 hours later by email that they would no longer oppose the application.

While Barkhuizen will not have opposition to her case, Human said it did not automatically mean that the judge would grant the order.

“The judge can still pose a few questions to us. The MEC in a statement sent to us acknowledged that he did not have the power to suspend Barkhuizen. He said: ‘I have no powers to suspend the applicant and at any time when reference was made to suspension, I was only confirming what was conveyed to me by the governing body.’”

Human said this was despite the fact that Lehari had clearly stated in front of scores of people that it was his decision.

Human said Barkhuizen still had to obtain an order that would entitleher to return to the school.

In her court papers, Barkhuizen said the children were at first seated in certain groups, according to needs such as communication barriers, as the school was predominantly Afrikaans and used an interpreter.

“I explained to the parents my approach to education and the outlay of my classroom. I explained my approach to seating arrangements, particularly with reference to individual learner’s needs and requirements.”

“It has everything to do with an effective teaching approach to the advantage of the learners themselves.”

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