Eastern Cape school responds to allegations of racial segregation

2019-01-16 12:41
School classroom. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)

School classroom. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)

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King Edward High School has responded to media reports alleging racial segregation in some of its Grade 1 classes, saying that one of the challenges in public education is preparing African-language-speaking children to be taught in English by Grade 4.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the school governing body's chairperson advocate Andrew Duminy said that many African-language-speaking children could not cope with the mandatory transition to English in Grade 4 "and consequently fail and drop out of school".

This after the Sunday Times published images of a predominantly black class of 27 pupils at the school alongside a class of 13 mainly white pupils.

"One of the biggest challenges in public education is that African-language-speaking children are required to be taught in English from Grade 4.

"Many children simply cannot cope with this transition and consequently fail and drop out of school," Duminy said.

"In an effort to address this, and provide a solid foundation for all learners, King Edward School has introduced a system of two years of Pre-Grade R early learning for children of all races. 

"By the time these children reach Grade 1, they have the foundations of language and numeracy skills and can thrive at school."

READ: Education department probing alleged segregation at Eastern Cape school

He said this was the reason why the school had so many applications. He added that the school had a 100% matric pass rate for 18 of the last 21 years.

'Overcoming the legacies of apartheid'

He said the school had expanded "greatly to accommodate this demand".

"This has changed the demographics of the school significantly, so that our learner population closely reflects the demographics of our country."

According to Duminy, African-language-speaking children joining the school at a later stage did not have the benefit of the early learning and had to acquire English language proficiency in a shorter time frame.

"Nonetheless, we are committed to ensuring that they reach the same levels of language and numeracy competency as any other children. The success of this strategy is, once again, reflected in the numerous matric distinctions received by all our learners and a bachelors' admission rate consistently around 90%."

He said that, while most classes were completely mixed, the class for accelerated language development "is inevitably comprised of second-language English speakers due to our intake".

"These are the realities of trying to provide opportunity to all children in a rural community in South Africa, and in overcoming the legacies of apartheid. If there are better ways of achieving these goals, we will work to implement them."

Duminy added: "What we will not do is jeopardise the educational prospects of the children with solutions that don't address their realities."

'Sensationalist and defamatory'

He said that the school was also unhappy with the reporting of the matter in the media.

"We are most concerned about the sensationalist and defamatory article headings, selective use of photographs, factually incorrect statements and misquotes and clearly identifiable images of our learners that have been published."

Duminy said the school was, however, willing to talk to journalists.

"We are very willing to engage with journalists to understand the complexities of integrating learners who speak different home languages - and who enter school at very different levels of second language competency."

The Department of Education is now investigating the matter.

"We will co-operate fully with the Department of Education and look forward to working with them in implementing any recommendations that put the interests of all our children first."

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