Court ruling on dual language policy in schools

Court ruling on dual language policy in schools

We have learned with disappointment about the Gauteng High Court ruling in favour of the Federation of Governing Bodies of SA Schools (FEDSAS) that single medium schools may continue because the School Governing Bodies have the legislative right to decide on the language use in the schools that they serve.

As the NHC we respect the judiciary and legal process, but this issue is essentially a moral, ethical and policy one. The courts should not have been the place of first resort. It would have been far more preferable for FEDSAS to have engaged in a public debate and consulted all role-players on the situation before rushing to court.

The unfortunate lesson that we draw from this is that an essential matter of national importance such as language can be treated as a strictly legal matter rather than a moral or ethical one; and that broader issues of the national interest can be ignored in preference to strictly legal interpretations.

The proposal made by MEC Panyaza Lesufi’s Gauteng Department of Education for single medium school to become parallel or dual medium schools is in the national interest. It contributes to the development of education as one of the country’s five top national priorities. It is therefore difficult to understand why FEDSAS and its Chief Executive Officer, Paul Colditz, lodged a court application without first engaging in a proper discussion with affected and interested parties. The absence of a concerted effort to assess the merits of the proposed introduction of a dual medium policy obviously reflects intentions to protect narrow sectarian interests.  The court is not the place to discuss fundamental issues of nation building and promoting a national identity free from racism. A public engagement with institutions charged with this responsibility might have led to a far more positive outcome for all concerned. It creates the impression that FEDSAS is hiding behind a narrow interpretation of the applicable legislation for SGBs to further an obviously anti-transformational and racist agenda.

When students at the University of the Free State humiliated African workers by feeding them urine-soaked food, the NHC posed the question as to how we can bring up our children free of racial prejudice from a young age. The manner in which FEDSAS has obtained this judgement, whilst strictly legal, is morally and ethically questionable. The language issue seems to be a convenient smoke screen for perpetuating a status quo where white children in these schools remain in a majority and have little opportunity of interacting with Africans other than as domestic workers. What kind of adults are these children going to grow up to become? This is a vitally important question that, ultimately, impacts on our hard-won democracy.

It would have been infinitely preferable for FEDSAS to have joined hands with government to try to build a truly united South African nation. Indeed, we should be striving for a lot more than dual medium education. Instead of squabbling about the use of English in schools alongside Afrikaans, as South Africans should all be working at introducing indigenous languages in school and implementing the National Language policy.

The plight of our indigenous languages in South Africa is of great concern to the National Heritage Council of South Africa. Indigenous languages are the richest carriers and transmitters of our culture and heritage. They will forever remain on the periphery of the formal learning system if such decisions are unchallenged.

We will support the Department of Education in ensuring that the future leaders of this country, especially the underprivileged, are not excluded from the school system on the basis of a language. It is our mandate to protect, promote and preserve the cultural heritage of this country. We believe that schools should be critical agents of transmitting and enriching culture and heritage through language, especially the indigenous languages of this country. We would urge FEDSAS to reconsider its approach and adopt a route that would promote nation building.

We will support the Department of Education in ensuring that the future leaders of this country, especially the underprivileged, are not excluded from the school system on the basis of a language. It is our mandate to protect, promote and preserve the cultural heritage of this country. We believe that schools should be critical agents of transmitting and enriching culture and heritage through language, especially the indigenous languages of this country. We would urge FEDSAS to reconsider its approach and adopt a route that would promote nation building.

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.



You have Successfully Subscribed!