Civil rights group has urged the government to build more schools to accommodate different languages
AFRIFORUM has rejected the government’s move to make it unlawful for schools to refuse admission to pupils on grounds of their language policy.
The organisation voiced its objection to proposed amendments on grounds that they meant single-medium Afrikaans schools will no longer have legal standing to exclude pupils who do not speak the language.
It submitted its comments to the Department of Basic Education on the proposed admission policy for ordinary public schools last week.
It has been reported recently that the department sought to ensure that “no pupil may be refused admission to a public school based solely on the language policy”.
The power to determine a school language policy must be exercised with due regard to the values of the Constitution, the department said in the document inviting the public to comment on the proposed amendments.
It said school language policies must take into “consideration what is fair, reasonably practicable, equity and the need to redress the results of past discriminatory laws and practices”.
This proposal was clearly a reaction to stand-offs the country has seen between African parents and Afrikaans-medium schools over admissions. Revolts flared up outside Hoërskool Overvaal in 2018 after 55 non-Afrikaans speaking African pupils were declined admission on grounds of the school’s language policy.
In its submission to the department, AfriForum urged the government to build more schools to accommodate different languages.
“It is the duty of the state to provide sufficient schools in provinces and districts to accommodate and cater for the different language preferences of learners,” it said.
“The state must also advance all official languages in education by creating and establishing more public schools, especially considering the growth in numbers of learners – particularly in certain areas within provinces – that places significant pressure on the capacity of existing schools.”
AfriForum said the determination of a school language policy should be left to the school governing bodies, in line with the Schools Act.
Natasha Venter, AfriForum’s education affairs manager, described the proposals as a deliberate attack on single-medium Afrikaans schools.
She said the move will only force Afrikaans-medium schools to admit pupils who don’t speak the language.
“To merely force single-medium Afrikaans schools that already serve enough Afrikaans-speaking children to accept children that have not mastered the language is most definitely not the solution,” Venter said.
“History proves that where English is forced upon Afrikaans schools, it results in the total Anglicisation of these schools.”