Afrikaans pupils quit Newcastle High

2008-05-13 00:00

THE new principal at Newcastle High, Manuel Govender, has vowed not to intervene after Afrikaans parents decided to pull their children out of the racially-charged school.

By yesterday, as many as 35 parents had requested transfers for their children to go to nearby Ferrum High — which, according to Govender, is still Afrikaans medium — and the number is likely to rise.

Tension started at the school after the Indian chairman of the school governing body discontinued Christian policies two years ago, against the wishes of the majority of parents.

Parents belonging to the Christian Parents’ Initiative applied to the Pietermaritzburg High Court to have the decision revoked, but the application was rejected.

Tensions were aggravated by the appointment of Govender four months ago, the announcement of which was met with jeers and the singing of the Afrikaans song De la Rey.

Many parents wanted acting principal Muggie Liebenberg appointed, and he lodged a dispute with the Education Department as he was not short-listed for the post.

Now parents have accused the school of marginalising Afrikaans in favour of English, according to a report in a Sunday newspaper.

“I will not intervene and lower my dignity by asking why, because I was never consulted. I think as principal I deserve some level of dignity,” Govender told The Witness yesterday.

He said the parents of the Afrikaans pupils held a secret meeting last week and the fact that they are taking the children to an Afrikaans-medium school is proof that they want to maintain their Afrikaans identity.

“To me the move is a clear indication that this is racially motivated. Parents feel Newcastle is no longer a place for their children.”

Govender said that currently 80% of the pupils are English-speaking, but he denied that Afrikaans is being eradicated.

“When I came here, Afrikaans pupils were taught in Afrikaans and English-speaking children were taught in English. We have maintained that, so the rumours are unjustified. In my view, they are the ones responsible for taking Afrikaans out of the school because if there are no Afrikaans-speaking pupils in this school, there will be no need to teach in Afrikaans.”

Govender said the staff are still predominantly white, but he receives resignations on a regular basis.

Education Department superintendent-general Cassius Lubisi held a meeting at the school last Friday, but The Witness was unable to contact him for comment yesterday as he is at a conference in Cape Town.c

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