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Governing Body of Mikro Primary School & Anor. v. The Western Cape Minister of Education & Others

South African Supreme Court of Appeal, Case No. 140/05 (27 June 2005)

Keywords: reasonableness, South Africa, Constitutional law, language, accessibility, limitations on right,

Law, Facts, Decision

Law:

Section 29(2) South African Constitution: ‘Everyone has the right to receive education in the official language or languages of their choice in public educational institutions where that education is reasonably practicable.’ 

Facts:

The Head of Department at Mikro Primary School had issued a Directive instructing the Governing Body to admit certain learners and teach them in English as that was their native tongue. 

Originally the High Court agreed that the learners be taught in English; interpreting Section 29(2) of the Constitution to mean that everyone had the right to receive education in the official language of his or her choice at each and every public educational institution where this was reasonably practicable.    

Decision

The Supreme Court of Appeal held that in terms of Section 29(2), the constitutional right to receive education in an official language at a public educational institution was not a right to receive such education at each and every public educational institution, subject only to it being reasonably practicable to do so.   

Even if it was reasonably practicable to provide such education at the Mikro Primary School, the children did not have a constitutional right to receive education in English at that particular school, simply a right to be educated in English. Such children were to be sent to another suitable school or schools on a permanent basis as soon as was reasonably practicable.  The placement of the children at another suitable school was to be done taking into account the best interests of the children.