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Sipho Maga
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Christian propaganda in SA school settings

02 September 2013, 13:23

Regrettably,the church and state separation in South Africa does not materialise as clearly as it should. Particularly when it comes to religious practice in schools through assemblies,collective prayers and other,mostly Christian rituals in public,non religious identifying schools.The South African constitution promotes a 'Co-operative Model"  policy for religion and public education,in which separate areas of influence for religion and the state are prioritised while while promoting cooperation between the two.Here,citizens are said to be protected from religious discrimination. It also promotes co-operation between religious groups and the state. Finally, it supports Religion Education in public school curriculum.

However,according to Na'eem Jeenah, "Religion Education is a form of education which does not focus on any one particular religion but teaches about many different religions. Its aim is not to teach learners about their own religions only and it does not teach how to pray and the details of how to perform other duties in their traditions. Its aim is to teach learners about the different religions that exist in our country and the rest of the world so that we might be able to understand each other and each other’s traditions better. Educators teaching Religion Education have to be careful to treat all the religions fairly. This is the form of education which should be carried out in public schools."

And yet you get to see the exact opposite in schools across the country.There are assemblies in which students are expected to gather prior to commencing classes,where often the Christian bible will be read or quoted briefly before students are instructed to close their eyes and pray,often 'Our father who art in heaven'. There are little to no provisions made for students of other religious or traditional backgrounds.Assembly time is compulsory and everyone is non- negotiably subjected to these rituals there.

You would think they would personally ask the learners if they at least willing to participate in these hegemonic Christian faith rituals that dominate these schools.With an exception of a few schools and other specific religious schools like Muslim schools,It is assumed that all learners subscribe to Christianity.And from my observation as a black South African,all the schools I have seen are all very Christian.

This pervasive Christian propaganda in schools needs to be brought into question.The government needs to go back to the drawing board and brainstorm carefully how best to go about this.Because on the one hand religious freedoms are protected by the Constitution, but on the other dominant religions are brought to professional education settings to teach learners of a compulsory and correct way of life,rather than to expose them to options they may choose from.It is here that behaviours are 'corrected' and diversity shunned.Other learners are quite literally forced to comply with this kind of oppressive disservice.
But essentially what you are preaching to learners,as it were,is that they are not equal.People with certain beliefs are 'preferred' while others are ignored and silenced,thereby maintaining social patterns of inequality and discrimination and rendering the school setting as a space for learning how to be proper.That to be proper you must be Christian.

I am not referring here to specifically religious schools like Catholic schools,Hindu schools and so forth as these are explicit about the religions through which they operate so that at least the parents have consented on behalf of their children.(Although there are non such schools as 'indigenous' traditional belief schools in South Africa that I'm aware of,perhaps I need to go out more)

 This brings questions of democracy into question.We operate from the pretences that diversity is prioritised and accommodated in our country and then we go and teach learners that their traditional beliefs,for instance,are inferior to dominant Christianity.That they need to shove them in professional settings and "put their act" together,thereby further entrenching post-colonial discourses. There has got to be away to accomodate diversity in this country,starting with schools,that does not assume homogeneity.Either religious practices are banned in public school settings or ALL kinds of beliefs are given equal platform.

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