THE eviction of a school situated on the premises of the Juma Musjid Trust in KwaZulu-Natal sparked debate on the rights of children and their basic right to education at the Constitutional Court yesterday.
The Juma Musjid primary school - which is challenging its eviction by the trust - focused on the balance between the right to property and the right to basic education. The school had been operating from the property for years and in 1997, the trust asked the KwaZulu-Natal education department to rent the property. When they failed to reach a lease agreement by 2004, the trust served the education department with a notice to vacate the property.
Last year, the KwaZulu-Natal High Court granted the trust an eviction order but suspended the order until the end of last year. The school governing body yesterday told the Constitutional Court that the trust was obligated to regard the best interests of the children.
Gilbert Marcus SC, for the school governing body, said the trust asserted its right to property to the exclusion of the right to basic education and the children's right to have their dignity respected and protected. Mr Marcus said the eviction from the school amounted to the closure of the school. However, Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo said the provincial education department would make arrangements to transfer the children to three other schools in the area.
Mr Marcus asked the court to set aside the eviction order and to order that the trust, the school governing body and the department engage to find alternatives to eviction. Vinay Gajoo SC, for the trust, said it was about 13 years ago that the trust allowed the department to occupy the premises, with the understanding that an agreement of a lease would be concluded. He said the trust understood there was alternative accommodation for the children.
Alex Jeffrey SC, for KwaZulu-Natal MEC Senzo Mchunu, said there was no possibility that a lease agreement would be concluded with the trust.
He said the MEC would require two to three months to close the school and negotiate with parents on the mechanism to accommodate the pupils in other schools. The court reserved judgment.