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New admission policy for schools: Another attack on Afrikaans education

Newly proposed regulations for the admission of learners to public schools were recently published in the Government Gazette. Stakeholders have time until the 12th of March to provide input.

This is a poorly disguised attack on the small number of Afrikaans schools that still make a contribution to their communities.

As time goes by, the ANC government keeps intensifying its efforts to use all social institutions to realise its idea of transformation. This idea is that every institution must reflect the general population composition of South Africa.

In terms of this perspective, if twenty percent of all learners are Afrikaans speaking, then it is not that twenty percent of all schools must be Afrikaans, but that twenty percent of every single school must be Afrikaans.

In contrast, the FF Plus's view is that communities have the right to maintain their schools according to the values and culture they represent – this includes public schools.

The Schools Act of 1996 is unequivocal on the topic. It reaffirms the authority of the South African Constitution and transformation over all schools in the country, but pertinently makes provision for public schools that belong to the community as opposed to "state schools".

While the Department of Basic Education was forced to delegate some of its powers to school governing bodies that could take it on during the lockdown, it seems that now the Department is trying to take back that authority.

Concerning the current opportunity for public comment on the proposed admission policy of schools, the focus falls mainly on two things: Language and catchment areas for schools.

To declare that a school may not refuse admission to learners because they are not fluent in the school's language of instruction is like ordering that a crisis must be created; one to which the Department can respond in any way it likes. The proposed policy might as well have stated clearly that Afrikaans schools must enrol learners who are not fluent in Afrikaans. It is obviously what is intended.

With regard to catchment areas; it is a well-known fact that Afrikaans Hoër Seunskool and Afrikaans Hoër Meisieskool in Pretoria have served a specific cultural community for generations. Some schools like these are situated in an area where their specific community's numbers are dwindling, but parents from across the city, and even the country, choose to send their children to these schools steeped in tradition.

Demarcating and rigidly enforcing school zones come down to targeting these schools.

In the meantime, the Department, by way of the provincial departments, is failing to build enough new schools for growing communities. Additionally, there are rumours that so-called "township schools" are not filled to capacity because parents do not have any faith in the standard of the education that they offer. It appears that all parents who have some form of choice are sending their children to schools where the Department has the least influence.

The Department of Basic Education would do well to rather help under-performing schools to improve than to constantly focus all its attention on Afrikaans schools that are managed properly.

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