Dept to oppose bid to halt parallel medium schools

2015-05-20 19:30
School desks. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

School desks. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Johannesburg - The Gauteng education department is opposing an urgent application by the Federation of Governing Bodies of SA Schools (Fedsas) to halt its plans to have certain schools teach in two languages, because it does not want to have schools only for "klein baases", MEC Panyaza Lesufi said on Wednesday. 

"We are going to court on Tuesday, 26th May, to defend the matter," he told journalists in Johannesburg.

The application would be heard in the High Court in Johannesburg. 

Lesufi recently announced plans to convert 124 single-medium schools to parallel-medium schools to address overcrowding in schools in the province.

It recently emerged from a leaked list of the schools that the plan primarily involved Afrikaans single-medium schools.

Lesufi said resistance to the plan was racially motivated and had nothing to do with the Afrikaans language.

"I believe it is a waste of the court's time. You can't stop non-racialism. If you want to have a school for only 'klein baases' [small bosses], it is not going to succeed."

When asked later to clarify the comment, Lesufi shook his head.

"The issue of language is a smokescreen to hide a specific race. It is a clear case that people are using one language to protect the privileges of the past. They are using language and culture to defend themselves so that other races cannot come to their schools."

Fedsas said in a statement on Wednesday that it went out of its way to keep the matter out of court.

"This included a meeting with Mr Lesufi, during which he stressed that his department did not have a hidden agenda... The opposite has now happened." Fedsas CEO Paul Colditz said.

Colditz said in court papers that Lesufi and the provincial department expected schools to accept applications from pupils "who require English language instruction irrespective of the current language policies of the schools". 

Fedsas therefore sought to prevent the MEC and the department from "unlawfully interfering with the statutory preserve of the SGBs [school governing bodies] in the determination of language and admission policies by the schools they serve".

"The respondents have done this in the face of a clear constitutional right to mother tongue education, and an expressed constitutional preference for the preservation of institutions where instruction is offered in a single language," Colditz said.   

'We can resolve this over tea and koeksisters'

Lesufi said this case would be the first test of whether non-racialism worked in South Africa.

"If demographics around your school have changed, accept it. Go to all those schools, there is only one race. Is that how we want to build a non-racial South Africa?" he asked.

"I don't think it's wrong for our children to learn together and play together. If a court says otherwise, they will have entrenched racism forever."

He said a team was commissioned to gather information from school principals on the implementation of parallel mediums. The list of schools leaked to the media was not the final list.

He said the Schools Act gave SGBs the power to determine the language pupils were taught in. However, since most of the people in those bodies spoke a particular language, they refused to entertain the idea of teaching in different languages.

"If the school [that only teaches in one language] is next to you and they say no to you, then you have to go 15km away to the next school," he said.

"We are saying that let's do an audit. If schools are not full they can accommodate new learners."

Lesufi said this was why Fedsas approached the courts.

"I think that this is matter we can resolve over tea and koeksisters."

Read more on:    fedsas  |  gauteng education department  |  johannesburg ­  |  education

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