Lesufi: Afrikaans schools use language to create ‘enclaves’

2015-05-27 15:57
Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi. Picture: Simone Kley

Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi. Picture: Simone Kley

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Johannesburg - Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi has accused Afrikaans-medium schools of using language as a pretext for excluding other races from enrolling in their schools. 

The real reason, said Lesufi addressing a media conference in Pretoria, was that they wanted to keep such schools as Afrikaans enclaves. As such, Lesufi said, he was prepared to go all the way to the Constitutional Court to force such schools to become dual-medium. 

This comes on the back of a high court ruling yesterday that upheld that schools had the right to prepare and submit waiting lists, and that such lists may be informed by the schools’ internal admission and language policies. 

The court action by the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (Fedsas) followed from a leaked document that revealed that the Gauteng education department was conducting a study of underutilised schools. 

The study, said spokesperson Phumla Sekhonyane, was aimed at taking stock of underutilised schools with the aim of enrolling pupils who couldn’t find spaces in schools of their choice. 

The study also revealed that the department was also planning to force schools to reconfigure their admission policies so that they prioritised access to education, as opposed to their internal admission and language policies. 

Fedsas had petitioned the courts to rule that in preparing the waiting lists, schools would take into account their admission and language policies. The body had also asked the courts to find that the department could not force schools to become dual-medium as it would violate language policies. The court still had to rule on the second issue. 

Lesufi said he would abide by the ruling that schools had the right to take into account their admission and language policies when formulating their waiting lists. But he said he would go to the Constitutional Court, if necessary, to force single-medium schools that are predominantly Afrikaans to use two languages in order to accommodate other pupils. 

“I believe the judge erred. No child should be denied access to education because of their language. No school shall exclude any learner based on their language. The right to education is one of the most fundamental rights and no one will use language to exclude any learner from school,” he said. 

Fedsas, he said, was misleading the courts and the public. 

“This case is not about language rights. Why is it so bad that our children can’t play together. Why are people so scared for a black child to play with an Afrikaans child. Those who don’t want to let go of their apartheid privileges must know that schools are government resources. Teachers belong to the government as well. 

“What Fedsas is saying is that if you are Tswana, you should go to a Tswana school and if you are Xhosa, you should go to a Xhosa school,” said

Lesufi, adding that the department would not lose the battle against nonracialism. 

He said he was prepared to petition Education Minister Angie Motshekga to change the South African Schools Act to ensure that single-medium school were forced to go dual. 

Many single-medium schools, especially Afrikaans, were operating at half capacity but would not accept pupils who didn’t speak Afrikaans, he said.

This, he said, has forced many parents to look for schools in far-flung areas because schools, which are at times as close as a walking distance from them, would not take their children who don’t speak Afrikaans.

Read more on:    panyaza lesufi  |  schools

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