New bill to force former white schools to be racially diverse
DA protests that legislation takes away powers of school governing bodies.
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School segregation in post-apartheid South Africa has, according to parents, remained along racial and socioeconomic lines, with black pupils still underrepresented in many former whites-only schools.
A parent, Celia Mathubi, said while the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill has its flaws, it would force many former white schools to become racially diverse and allow pupils of all races to feel welcome.
This comes is after the Democratic Alliance (DA) marched to Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi’s office to protest against what it has dubbed the “School Capture Bill”.
The party was attacking mother-tongue education, especially in Afrikaans, claiming that South African schools were being destroyed.
Mathubi asked: “Why are we still shocked and surprised by the racism which saturates our country’s former model C schools?
“Are these historic institutions willing and/or able to change?
“From what I understand the Bill does not want to take away the rights of others to fulfil the rest, but to work for all those pupils and make sure that diversity and inclusivity are not issues.”
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However, DA shadow minister of basic education Baxolile Nodada said the Bill sought to take what works and make it unworkable by taking away the powers of school governing bodies, parents and communities.
“Because at the end of the day, if you study in your mother tongue, you become a master of what you study.
“Imagine studying science in Xhosa or Tswana and you’re able to understand the concepts and you’re able to compete with people that have basically comprehended that language.
“So, the role of the department is not to dictate what language to study in, but they must listen to school governing bodies.
“If schools are trying to exclude pupils based on language, they must then intervene.
“That is their responsibility.”
National Association of School Governing Bodies general secretary Matakanye Matakanya said the association generally supported the Bill on the language aspect and the aim was to end limited access to former white schools based on skin colour.
“We’re living in a new South Africa.
“We cannot have schools that are purely dominated by a group of people based on colour and race, which then become exclusive only to that group,” Matakanya said.
Lesufi said among the amendments included in the Bill was that a head of department may direct a public school to adopt more than one language of instruction, where it was practical to do.
“If the head of department issues such a directive, he or she must take all necessary steps to ensure the public school receives the necessary resources that enable it to provide adequate learning and education in the additional language of instruction,” the MEC said.
He said he was unapologetic about rejecting entitlement to certain schools based on skin colour and privilege. He also stressed that schools should be inclusive of all children, regardless of race.
Nonprofit organisation Skoleondersteuning’s Sarina Prinsloo said pupils who were comfortable learning in Afrikaans or Xhosa should not be inconvenienced by stretched resources. Parents should take their children to schools where their preferred home language was dominant.
“We cannot look at schools that are performing; functional schools that are doing great and force them to change their language policy,” she said.
“So, it’s not just the language issue.
“It is to give children an opportunity to learn in their own mother tongue in their own school, but not to take this away from other [schools] that are already functional and doing great.”
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