‘My child hates Afrikaans people’

2013-05-05 14:01

When black students travel the 5km from Kokosi township to attend class at Hoërskool Fochville, they pass a signpost that reads: “Jy betree nou die wereld van Fochies.”

The message – “You’re now entering the world of the Fochies” – couldn’t be truer for the 70 families from Kokosi who are at the centre of a bitter battle for dual-medium tuition at the well-resourced Afrikaans high school.

The case has brought to light startling allegations of the exclusion ­experienced by 89 black learners.

“My daughter was suicidal at one stage. She didn’t want to go back to that school. She didn’t want to see that uniform again,” a crying parent told City Press this week.

Fochville Hoërskool, which has a student population of 841, last year introduced one English-language class, which currently consists of 42 black students in Grade 9.

There are also 47 other black pupils who are receiving tuition in Afrikaans at Fochville, which lies to the southwest of Joburg.

But the school’s governing body now wants to end the practice of dual-medium classes.

Fochville Hoërskool’s governing body has taken the Gauteng department of education to the South ­Gauteng High Court to prevent it from being forced to increase its ­intake of pupils from Kokosi.

The governing body argues that it has the right, in terms of the South African Schools Act, to adopt and ­enforce its own language and admissions policy at Fochville.

Affidavits that have been filed to the court by rights group Section27 on behalf of black pupils’ parents paint a grim picture. The parents say staff at the school refuse to speak English to them.

One mother, whose name has been withheld to protect her child from victimisation, said in her affidavit: “They asked me if my child wanted to learn in Afrikaans and when I said that my child would learn in English, they chased me away and refused to talk to me any further.”

After the district office of the ­Gauteng department of education intervened, the woman was then given an application form in Afrikaans.

“When I told them that I don’t ­understand Afrikaans, they told me to go and ask the people that sent me here (meaning the department) to translate this for me.”

Another parent, whose name is ­also being withheld to protect her child, told City Press that after an ­initial court victory for the Gauteng department of education, teachers at the school refused to teach their ­children.

“The teachers were saying, ‘Go and tell the department to teach you. We won’t teach you because of some of the things that you children have told the department of education’.

“For the whole of the day, they didn’t teach them,” said Motaung.

“Firstly, it makes my child hate the school. Secondly, it makes my child hate Afrikaans-speaking people ... My child will grow up with this. When she becomes an adult, it won’t be easy for her to let white people or Afrikaans-speaking people into her life.”

The majority of black families say they have no choice but to send their kids to Fochville Hoërskool.

The other English schools nearby are ­already very full and the only alternatives are in Carltonville, 25km away. This is a half-hour trip each way and would cost parents R450 a month.

Many of the parents are employed in nearby mining industries and say they cannot afford these fees.

The Fochville case is similar to the legal battle between Rivonia Primary School and the Gauteng department of education that will be heard in the Constitutional Court this week.

Hoërskool Fochville has not yet answered the affidavits that have been filed by the parents.

When City Press contacted the school, we were told that the principal was not available.

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