Voyokazi Dyani wants her son to go to Paul Roos Gymnasium, a publicly funded secondary school close to where she lives in Stellenbosch. Her son is above average academically and is passionate about sport, particularly rugby; the school is named for the captain of the first South African rugby team to tour overseas, back in 1906.
But Paul Roos Gymnasium has turned down the application because the school is “full”. Ms Dyani’s appeals have been rejected by the school and by the Province’s MEC for Education. She has now taken the case to the Equality Court.
The South African Constitution is clear about the right to education. Clause 29 of the Bill of Rights says that
Everyone has the right to a basic education, including adult basic education; and to further education, which the state, through reasonable measures, must make progressively available and accessible.
This is reinforced by the Western Cape Provincial School Education Act: “every learner shall be entitled to ordinary education at his or her nearest ordinary public school , insofar as it is reasonably practicable.”
But here’s the rub. The Dyanis live in Kayamandi, the crowded black township close to the centre of Stellenbosch that was established half a century ago for low paid workers in the town. Their nearest high school is in Kayamandi and it is alleged that the school told Voyokazi Dyani that this is where her son “belongs”.
An added twist is that, in addition to being an aspirant rugby player, Ms Dyani’s son attended Rhenish Primary School. Rhenish is as venerable as Paul Roos Gymnasium and, while still in Stellenbosch, is actually a little further from Kayamandi than Paul Roos. While, of course, the principles of the Constitution apply whatever the prior school attended, or sporting preferences, these particular circumstances have combined to set up a high profile test of basic rights in the face of apparent unfair discrimination.
Voyokazi Dyani, herself a teacher, is persistent and determined. She has been waiting for an undue time for a ruling from the South African Human Rights Commission and it seems likely that this case will go through the courts.
It seems to me that a key issue is this:
If the rule that a person has a right to attend the school that is physically nearest to them is used by schools like Paul Roos Gymnasium to exclude applicants from the townships, where residents were previously denied basic rights in terms of apartheid legislation, then how can the far more important principle of the progressive achievement of equity and equality of opportunity in education, as set out in the Constitution, ever be achieved?
In the meanwhile, all strength to Voyokazi Dyani. And how strange that a school named for South Africa’s first foray into international rugby should deny admission to a black player with talent just as the country seeks glory in the World Cup.
Independent online, 27 January 2015. “School accused of rejecting black pupil”: http://beta.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/western-cape/school-accused-of-rejecting-black-pupil-1809606
Independent online, 10 October 2015. “Stellenbosch admission case on hold”. http://beta.iol.co.za/weekend-argus/stellenbosch-admission-case-on-hold-1927825