Schools languages case 'not about race'

2015-05-21 14:00

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Johannesburg - The Federation of Governing Bodies of SA Schools' (Fedsas) urgent application to halt the Gauteng Education Department's plans to convert certain schools to teach in two languages has nothing to do with race, it said on Thursday.

"The claim that it has to do with race is absolute rubbish. Why combine the issues of race and language?" Fedsas CEO Paul Colditz told News24.

"The case isn't about language. It is about complying with the law."

Fedsas is arguing that the Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi's plan to convert 124 single medium schools into parallel medium schools went against the law.

Lesufi has said that the plan aims to address school overcrowding in the province.

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

'Unlawfully interfering'

The application was made, according to Fedsas' court papers, to halt Lesufi 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".

Colditz said on Thursday that meant that Lesufi and the department were unlawfully interfering with the admission and language policies of governing bodies.

He said Lesufi had "other motives" behind the plan.

"We will not speculate on his motives, but the facts do not add up. Some of these 124 schools are already parallel medium schools."

Three of the schools on the leaked list told News24 that they had already converted to parallel medium schools, or were in the process of doing so.

Confusion for some schools

The principal of Pretoria's Hoerskool Overkruin, Cobus Nel, said he was not sure why his school was on the list.

"We are already a parallel medium school, and have been for several years. We don't have a problem with that. We already went through the entire process."

Andre van Rensberg, principal of Laerskool Westwood in Boksburg, said his school had been a parallel medium school since 2009.

"We did the whole exercise and we notified the district. The language of teaching currently is Afrikaans, but that's only because we don't have any English students".

A principal of a primary school, who did not want to be named, said his school had began the process of turning into a parallel medium school in 2012.

"I have English classes from Grade R up to Grade Three. I really don't know why we were on that list".

'Racially motivated'

Lesufi told reporters on Wednesday that Fedsas' resistance to the plan was racially motivated.

"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," he said.

"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."

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."

Fair, compliant

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

Colditz said Fedsas also had concerns about the electronic admissions process, which he said would place the entire admissions process in the hands of the department, and bypass the application of schools' own admission policies.

"It was introduced without prior consultation. Digital applications are the way to go for the future. But they need to be implemented in a manner that's fair and in compliance with the law."

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  education

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