Pledge ‘is not nationalistic’

2008-02-12 00:00

Cape Town — Don’t panic, South Africa — the school oath proposed by President Thabo Mbeki to be recited by learners during their morning assemblies will not amount to a "nationalist" pledge.

This was the effective message from Education Minister Naledi Pandor yesterday, as she poured cold water over fears that the proposed national school pledge will be used as a nationalist tool.

Addressing the media during a briefing on the government’s work in the Education, Labour and Skills Development cluster, Pandor announced the words of the proposed pledge, but stressed that there is no "nationalist" intention in introducing the pledge to schools.

President Thabo Mbeki announced, during his state of the nation address last week, his wish for an oath, which would be recited by learners during their morning school assemblies.

Mbeki said the oath should be in addition to a Youth Pledge, extolling the virtues of humane conduct and human solidarity among all.

Pandor said the pledge, which was drawn up with religious leaders and which draws on the Constitution, should bring learners together and unite them in a common identity.

"It sums up the responsibilities that we should attach to our exercise of the rights enshrined in the bill of rights."

She said the public will be asked to comment on the proposed pledge and that, depending on the response, her department might implement it by as early as mid-March, in time for Human Rights Day.

"It depends on the process. The usual practice for public comment is 30 days," she said.

"I am not aware of a single South African who has said they want to opt out of the Constitution, so I cannot imagine that any parent would not want their child to say these words," Pandor continued.

"There is no nationalist intention. The pledge speaks to the values that we want to really internalise and have our young people take up as part of their core purpose in society. … we need to … set before our young people the idea that they have a real chance of creating a very different South Africa."

The DA yesterday voiced support for the pledge of allegiance, saying it would be a valuable way of making South African children feel that they are part of a larger national identity.

"It would also help to make them conscious of the need to respect their fellow countrymen and value the principles of an open, tolerant and free society that are embodied in our Constitution," said DA Education spokeswoman Desiree van der Walt.

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