Save the Children notes with concern the continued discrimination against learners who want to use English as a medium of instruction seeking admission to formerly Afrikaans schools. According to the South African Schools Act of 1996 “the governing body of a public school may determine the language policy of the school subject to the Constitution, this Act and any applicable provincial law”. However the Act clearly states that “no form of … discrimination may be practised in implementing policy determined under this section”. In terms of “school zoning” there is also an onus on local schools to admit children from the “feeder zone” who live in the surrounding area.
The problem that has come to our attention” says David Hopwood, Acting CEO of Save the Children South Africa “is that there are no English high schools in North East Pretoria to service children coming from the English Primary schools. The only high schools which exist and which are therefore considered feeder schools are Montana Hoer Skool and Overkruin Hoer Skool. Despite the policy guidelines these two feeder high schools continue to discriminate against learners from the two English primary schools in the area on the basis of language. This is a matter of equality, we need to remain mindful of our Constitution which affords all children the right to a quality education. Local children for which English is their medium of instruction are forced to seek access to English medium schools which are far away from where they live. This means they have to incur additional travel expenses and have less time available for school work and extra murals. The Schools Act stipulates that schools must show how they are promoting multilingualism”.
Save the Children is calling on the Department of Education to intervene just as it has done in the past in Limpopo where pupils were denied access in four formerly Afrikaans schools in 2004. Likewise the Department concluded that isiXhosa and English speaking students in Delft in the Western Cape could not be discriminated against on the basis of language. For Mr. Hopwood “it is an injustice to children and an outcry that as we approach 20 years of democracy in South Africa that the basic education system does not take into consideration the needs of children on the basis of language.” Save the Children is currently successfully implementing a Child Rights Governance Programme which aims to actively involve children in municipal level decision making processes so that they would be able to influence those decisions that impact on them. Such an approach could have averted the problems currently facing the learners in Pretoria North.
For interviews and further information, please contact:
Canny Geyer Save the Children Programme Director
Tel: 012 430 7776;
Cell: 083 655 5981