Mother fights for Xhosa Education

One of the cures education most needs in this country is mother-tongue teaching. So it was with a great sense of pride when the Daily Dispatch reported on a Xhosa parent taking a stand against Gonubie Primary School in East London – a school which seems hellbent on enforcing Afrikaans teaching on majority Xhosa-speaking children.

Earlier this year a petition against this very same practice was circulated – it reached the departments of Arts & Culture as well as Basic Education – and will be considered in the debates around the country’s Languages Bill.

IsiXhosa continues to be excluded as a first additional language at many former Model C schools in the Eastern Cape. Yet, chief amongst the many reforms towards a better education is the missing ingredient of mother tongue teaching…

Here’s the full report on the East London mother taking a stand against our children being taught in Afrikaans in the province:

By Msindisi Fengu

AN EAST London mother is suing a former Model C school and the Eastern Cape education department for allegedly enforcing Afrikaans and excluding Xhosa as the first additional language.

Ayanda Duma, whose two children are pupils at Gonubie Primary School, is also calling for the reversal of school governing body (SGB) election results, claiming the board was not voted in properly. Gonubie Primary was among 5 600 public schools across the province required to elect new SGBs last month.

While Duma is one of the first parents in the province to take legal action regarding language preference at schools since the new curriculum assessment policy (CAPS) was introduced this year, close to 200 black parents with children at Gonubie Primary are expected to lodge similar lawsuits. Speaking to the Dispatch yesterday, Duma said the decision to have

Afrikaans as a first additional language at the school was going to prejudice the majority of the children at the school who were black.

She said more than 400 pupils were Xhosa speakers, 200 English and 70 Afrikaans.
The distraught mother said she had decided to take the matter to court after the department had backtracked from an initial agreement with parents to have both

Xhosa and Afrikaans taught at the school as first additional languages. This came after a delegation of officials were sent by education

MEC Mandla Makupula to resolve the impasse at the school earlier this year.
Black parents were also at loggerheads with the SGB following a decision to allegedly enforce Afrikaans while Xhosa was taken out of the school’s curriculum.

She said she got concerned when the previous SGB made the announcement, and wrote to school principal Cyril Prinsloo several times to register her frustrations.

Other black parents joined the protest and agreement was taken at a meeting with departmental officials from the head office in Zwelitsha to have both languages as first additional languages. It was further agreed that SGB elections should be suspended
pending the implementation of the language preference agreement. However, Duma claimed the agreement was dishonoured and SGB elections proceeded. According to information filed in the court papers, Duma claimed that white parents wanted to resist the implementation of the agreement reached with the department. She further alleged they didn’t want her on the SGB and as a result a process of electing new members
went ahead without the participation of black parents.

She said following that a document was circulated by Prinsloo endorsing the election of the new SGB as well as the efforts to have Afrikaans given recognition as the first additional language.
Duma said she had decided to approach the Equality Court and seek an order to:

1. Compel the department and school to dissolve the “undemocratically” elected SGB;
2.  Immediately suspend all functions of the SGB;
3.  Immediately suspend the implementation of the “unpopular decision to have Afrikaans granted a blanket recognition” as the first additional language; and
4. Unconditionally apologise to black parents who have been affected by the impasse.

She said black parents were disappointed with the department. “We are frustrated and some are discouraged with the conduct of department officials. I’ve decided to take the legal course because I have lost hope in the department. “District officials overruled the head office’s agreement. The whole thing does not make sense.” Duma said black parents were entitled to have options. “We are not saying the school must do away with Afrikaans, but that we have to be given an option within our rights to choose. “Officials from the department explained that we have an option to have both languages in the school’s curriculum and that the department will provide resources such as teachers and textbooks, but all that changed after the SGB elections.”

As things stand, Duma said Xhosa was not part of the school’s curriculum. Prinsloo would not comment on the matter and referred all questions to the department. The headmaster said he was also not “at liberty” to release contact details of SGB members.

Department spokesman Loyiso Pulumani said an intervention would have to be made to find a solution. “We ’ve not received court papers, but what’s important is to find a solution. This is quite an emotive matter. We don’t want to rush, but we want to handle this with the necessary discretion and sensitivity to ensure everyone’s interests are served, ” said Pulumani. Basic education spokesman Panyaza Lesufi had told the Dispatch earlier this year that SGBs were allowed to decide on whether they wanted to offer an African language at their schools. However, Lesufi added that a new policy was under review with a view to make African languages compulsory at schools. It is expected to be introduced next year.

The above first appeared in the Eastern Cape’s Saturday Dispatch (21/04/2012).