Official accused of ‘racial’ profiling at Overvaal

2018-01-14 06:03
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A senior Gauteng education official tasked with finding places for desperate pupils in schools has allegedly been manipulating the process by racially profiling children.

The official, who is based in the East Sedibeng district and whose name has not yet been made public, allegedly assigned pupils to schools based on their names and surnames.

This is the latest accusation in a battle between the Gauteng education department and Hoërskool Overvaal, which has insisted it is too full and therefore cannot accept pupils who do not speak Afrikaans as their first language.

The official allegedly placed pupils who do not have Afrikaans names and surnames into English-medium schools in the area, or in others far from their homes.

City Press established that other department officials revealed this to members of the Overvaal transformation committee last month. Parents founded the committee in 2016 to demand that Hoërskool Overvaal transform and offer English as an additional medium of instruction.

Committee members include parents Michael Matlala, Marvin Matlotlo, Queen Mofokeng, Tlhoriso Mofokeng and Angie Rewu. Their children used to attend Laërskool Sonlandpark and Arcon Park Primary in Vereeniging, which are within 5km from Hoërskool Overvaal. Now in high school, their children have to travel to English-medium schools more than 10km away.

Matlala said he was told that the official allegedly helped Hoërskool Overvaal by placing pupils with African names in other schools, while those with Afrikaans names were retained.

He said the official was found out when Gauteng education officials discovered that some of the 55 pupils at the centre of a court case between the school and the department were not Afrikaans speaking, but had been placed at Overvaal because they did not have African names and surnames.

“We will put the department under pressure to deal with the culprit,” Matlala said.

They took their complaint to the department in 2016 and formed the committee. They reserved a seat for the school, but not a single representative attended their meetings.

Matlala said that, in their dealings with the department, parents agreed that English should be phased in during Grade 8 from this year. However, in September, the school’s governing body wrote a memo to parents of pupils in Grade 7 in feeder schools, saying that Afrikaans would be the only medium of instruction.

The memo said: “Please take note that Hoërskool Overvaal is a single-medium Afrikaans school and that it will not change in the foreseeable future. Should your child attend Overvaal, the LOLT [language of learning and teaching] will be Afrikaans only. Reply with Yes and your child’s name and surname (for whom you have already applied online) if you accept above conditions.”

Matlala said that not only black parents had a problem with this, but whites, too.

Matlala has been forced to think strategically when looking for schools for his children. This is despite Hoërskool Overvaal being within walking distance from his home.

His children, Lebohang (15) and Lesego (11), attend schools several kilometres from his Sonland Park home. Lebohang was denied a place at Overvaal in 2016 and is now in Grade 10 at Riverside High, 14km away. Lesego is in Grade 7 at Milton Primary, about 11km away.

Matlala said school transport cost the family R550 a month when using public transport and R3 000 when using his car.

Matlala claims that most Hoërskool Overvaal pupils come from outside the area, are bussed in from farming towns and from as far away as the Free State.

“Some are from Sasolburg and Parys. Buses come in here in the morning. They gave somebody else who is not from our community preference,” he said.

The school has gone to the Pretoria High Court to challenge the department’s insistence that it admit 55 non-Afrikaans speaking pupils.

The school claims to be at capacity, with 621 pupils. The department argues it can take 840.

The school’s governing body has told the court it has communication from two nearby English-medium schools, Phoenix High and General Smuts High, stating they have space for the 55 pupils.

The school denies the department’s allegations that it is using Afrikaans as means to exclude pupils.

Judgment is expected tomorrow.

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Read more on:    education  |  language

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