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Don’t Blame Black Parents for Sending Kids to White Schools – Malaika wa Azania on Curro Controversy

Memoirs of a Born FreeCurro Foundation School in Roodeplaat, near Pretoria, is probably the most controversial school in the country this year after twice making headlines with shocking allegations of racial segregation.

In February a petition signed by black parents was circulated and sent to the media, stating that classes were being divided by race. This caused a large scale investigation in which the MEC for Education looked into closing the school.

Then, earlier this month, another scandal broke when a parent leaked a video of kids being separated by race on buses to a school field trip, which went viral. However, many parents – including black parents – defended both incidents, saying the division was based on language (English and Afrikaans) and not race.

Memoirs of a Born Free: Reflections on the Rainbow Nation author Malaika wa Azania has weighed in on the the controversy in a post on her public Facebook page, drawing on something she wrote in her book.

“Most of our Black working class parents, even as they cannot afford it, take us to multi-racial former model C schools with the hope that we will receive quality education. And let’s face it – those schools have better infrastructure than our schools in the townships,” Wa Azania writes, responding to the call for black parents to stop sending their kids to white schools.

Read her full comment:

I’m reading the commentary on the racial incident that transpired at one of the Curro schools in Jo’burg. Many people are saying Black parents are to blame for sending their kids to White schools. They argue that we must send Black kids to Black schools and leave White kids in the safety of their ivory towers of White supremacy. Quiet frankly, this is a problematic argument that wants to paint victims as the ones at fault and in the process, exonerate the real culprits.

Most of our Black working class parents, even as they cannot afford it, take us to multi-racial former model C schools with the hope that we will receive quality education. And let’s face it – those schools have better infrastructure than our schools in the townships. I make this argument in “Memoirs of a Born Free: Reflections on the Rainbow Nation”. I argue that the two-tier education system constructed by the apartheid regime, where the education of a White child received five times the funding of that of a Black child, has left a lasting legacy which is characterised by the quality of infrastructure in these former model C schools versus schools in Black communities.

I felt this first-hand in 2002 when I made my transition from Tshimologo Primary School in Meadowlands zone 9 (Soweto) to Melpark Primary School in Melville. Everything was better at Melpark. The teacher to student ratio was smaller, the classes were better equiped, the extra-curricula activities were more diverse as a result of better resources and above all, there was a conducive environment for learning. I saw a library for the first time in my life at Melpark. Until then, I never even knew schools could have libraries and computers for everyone.

The sad reality is that attending these schools puts Black children at a better position to access institutions of higher learning of quality. Had I never gone to a former model C school, I was never going to walk the corridors of Rhodes University. If I was lucky enough to, I’d have been hurled to an Extended Studies programme, as it would be argued that my command of the English language and my lack of computer skills make me unfit to be put into a mainstream degree programme. That’s what our universities do to working class Black students from rural and township schools. It is painful beyond measure.

So the real issue here is not that Black parents are taking their kids to these White schools. The issue here is that twenty one years into democracy, we still have a two-tier education system that disadvantages Black schools. The issue here is that we don’t have enough institutions of higher learning (traditional universities in particular) to accommodate the pool of matriculants we churn out annually, and so there’s tight competition to get into universities. Unfortunately, universities employ a merit-based system where the best applicants are accepted for study. These are often applicants from the very same White private or former model C schools.

So this blame that is being heaped on Black parents is not only unfair, it is indicative of lack of rationality rooted in failure to appreciate the reality of an untransformed South Afrika. Our parents don’t send us to these schools because they are bored or so sadistic that they enjoy seeing us wake up at 4am on cold mornings to make it to school on time, as we had to travel from the township using Putco buses. Most of the time they can’t even afford it. I know my own mother couldn’t afford to keep me at Melpark Primary School. The fees were suffocating her. Were it not for my academic performance, I’d have been excluded in my very first year. She sent me there because she understood that the only way out of our poverty is for me to get into a good university and increase my chances of economic upward mobility later in life, and the most probable way to get into a good university is to be from a school that is in a relatively upper quantile. And that’s what most Black parents are trying to do. So don’t punish them for wanting their children to survive this system. It’s wrong. It’s very cruel, in fact. Focus your attacks on this draconian anti-Black system and recognise the problem as White monopoly capital and racism…because THAT is the root of this issue.

The parent who took the video, Christopher Madumi Ramalingela, spoke to eNCA and explained why he felt it needed to be exposed:

A parent who filmed the excursion that has landed Curro Roodeplaat Private School in another racial segregation scandal, described the footage as disturbing and said he would take his child out of the school.

Dr Christopher Madumi Ramalingela said, “Initially, we just wanted to document our little girl’s trip and were shocked at what we saw.

“My wife was very disturbed by what she saw on the field trip. She had no idea the children were loaded onto the buses in that fashion.”

Read one of the other parents’ reactions, shared as a column on News24, for another take on the situation:

My son goes to Curro Roodeplaat which by now is properly the most controversial school in Gauteng. The reason we enrolled him there was due to fact that it is a double medium school. Which to us, as Afrikaans parents, meant that he will be afforded the opportunity to get exposure to all cultures and languages while receiving an education in Afrikaans, his mother tongue. He has friends from all the different classes, white, black and coloured and they play together at break time before and after school and together they do hip-hop, golf, tennis and yes, even rugby together. The kids are happy and they receive quality education with small classes and good teachers.

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Pregs Govender on the Secrecy Bill and the Promotion of Access to Information Act

Pregs Govender

Writing in her capacity as Deputy Chair of the South African Human Rights Council, Pregs Govender argues forcefully against the government’s mooted Protection of Information (“Secrecy”) Bill, saying we need greater access to information, not less:

Love and Courage

In its 2009 Annual Report, the SAHRC reported to Parliament that under PAIA, ‘More than 80% of local government structures remain non-compliant’. What happens when the poor lose faith in democratic institutions – when their requests are not heeded and their opinions are not taken into account? People know that budgets (from National to Local Government) reflect policy priorities and choices. They reflect, more than any rhetorical speech, who and what is valued…or not. People want to know the basis for Government’s choices. A key factor in many protests is the lack of access to information.

Those protesting over the lack of service delivery see many green, well-watered golf courses in their local municipalities but no houses, toilets, schools, clinics or well-equipped and maintained playgrounds or sports-fields for their children. They ask who is benefiting from million-rand tenders when bridges collapse and children drown. They want to know why the cost of basic food is increasing and why their sick children have to make choices between food and medicine. Striking workers say society’s claim to value their contribution to social reproduction through education and healthcare is not reflected in budget choices. Ordinary citizens ask who profited from the arms-deals and the building of stadiums. They want to know what economic, trade and finance policies have resulted in them losing their jobs. They ask where are the rights and choices for poor girls trafficked into prostitution. They ask why, in the 21st century, they have no toilets or toilets without walls. They want answers not just on the symptoms of their poverty and lack of socio-economic rights but on the causes of their poverty. Parliament has the power to ensure that local to national government is held to account and that there is not an even greater sense of impunity and disrespect for compliance because of the Protection of Information Bill.

The SAHRC 2010 Parliamentary submission on the Protection of Information Bill critiques the Bill from the perspective of the SAHRC’s mandate to promote the right to access to information, the direct opposite of the ‘Secrecy Bill’. Its submission builds on its earlier submissions on bills affecting information, including the 2008 version of this Bill, and critiques the lack of harmonization between information bills. The SAHRC submission concurs with many of the concerns of civil society, especially on the impact on the rights of whistleblowers and journalists. The SAHRC systematic clause by clause submission raises serious questions about matters such as the “Minister’s unfettered powers; the broad definition of national interest (the bill states that ‘secrecy exists to protect the national interest’); decision-making around categorization, classification, standards and procedures; the concentration of power in the state over information management and protection of information; the absence of a moderating independent body and the fact that non-disclosure on the basis of commercial or financial interests cannot be over-ridden by the public interest provided for in PAIA.”

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