[lg policy] South Africa: Don’t divide our children

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Mon Jun 1 18:47:48 UTC 2015

 Don’t divide our children 2015-05-31 15:00

Panyaza Lesufi, City Press
   [image: The right to an education is one of the most fundamental rights
and no one should use language to exclude any pupil from school]

The right to an education is one of the most fundamental rights and no one
should use language to exclude any pupil from school (Leanne Stander)

  Related Links

   - Dept will pursue dual language school case - Lesufi
   - Lesufi: Afrikaans schools use language to create ‘enclaves’
   - Court to hear dual language education bid

 I frequently get abuse from people who take the Gauteng education
department’s emerging policies out of context.

They think that just because I am a member of the governing ANC, I make
one-sided policy adjustments.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

What happened in court this week is an example of how a section of our
community, in this case the Federation of Governing Bodies of SA Schools,
is resisting cultural assimilation, social integration and cohesion.

A bit of background may help to create context. As part of the
reorganisation of our school systems, the department conducted a study of
underutilised schools to enrol pupils who cannot find space in schools of
their choice, particularly near their homes.

As a result of the study, we are reconfiguring our admission policies to
prioritise access to education and advocate dual-medium schools, as opposed
to internal admission and language policies.

This week the federation petitioned the courts to rule that schools’
admission and language policies should be taken into account. The body also
asked the courts to find that the department could not force schools to
become dual medium as it would violate language policies.

It is a pity that the court has ruled in the federation’s favour. The
department is of the view that the case brought by the federation is flawed
and motivated by concerns that do not accord with our Constitution or the
regulatory framework governing education, particularly access to education
in our new democracy.

The department is of the view that the learned judge erred in his judgment.
I am prepared to go all the way to the Constitutional Court to force such
schools to become dual medium, so predominantly Afrikaans schools use two
languages to accommodate other pupils.

This not only helps to use school infrastructure, but promotes cultural
assimilation, social integration and cohesion.

No child should be denied access to education because of their language. No
school shall exclude any learner based on their language. The right to
education is one of the most fundamental rights and no one will use
language to exclude any pupil from school.
The federation and its supporters are resisting cultural assimilation,
social integration and cohesion, which our country desperately needs to
build a nonracial society.

Let me concentrate a bit on cultural assimilation.

Firstly, what does it mean to assimilate into a nonracial, nonsexist
culture? For me, assimilate means striving in word and deed to be similar.

So, to assimilate means to make yourself similar to the people who are
already living in a certain place, whether in Soweto, Sandton, Bedfordview,
Katlehong, Midrand or Ivory Park.

Assimilation does not mean to be exactly like the people already there; it
means to make yourself similar. It means appreciating and participating in
the customs and cultures of the country we live in – a democratic and
nonracial South Africa.

Assimilating to a community or culture does not mean that one cannot
continue to appreciate and enjoy his or her own cultural and language
background, as the federation wants.

To provide a personal example, my family and I are completely assimilated
into the culture of the suburb where we live, but we still enjoy and
primarily live within the Pedi culture.

These two things are not in conflict with one another. In fact, they make
life richer and more rewarding. I can easily move within both cultures.

I believe we should all be bicultural and multilingual, and Gauteng schools
should be dual medium. If we can achieve that, it beats the heck out of
being monocultural and monolingual.

Remember that assimilation and social cohesion is a process, not an
immediate event. We must be patient.

I’ll say it again: We must be patient.

It is not reasonable to expect that we will all assimilate immediately.
This lack of patience is where most of us get into trouble – resulting, for
example, even in a court case.

Assimilation takes time, my friends. Let’s stay calm and let’s stay
realistic. Let’s also remember that assimilating into a culture does not
mean we have to throw away our cultures. It simply serves as the backdrop
for the fabric of our lives and democratic society. This background gives
grace and colour to our existence.
After all, how many of you would really be happy without your favourite
cultural meals, such as koeksisters, mngqusho, morogo, magwenya or
home-brewed beer?

We are blessed in this country to have 11 official languages. It brings
flavour to our society. It will accelerate social integration and cohesion
– and, ultimately, cultural assimilation.

As the famous 1970s song so correctly points out: “One is the loneliest

I think it makes good sense to open up the rest of our schools.

*Lesufi is MEC for education in
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