Afrikaans as a language of instruction in Gauteng is getting put under more pressure following a government decision to exclude a choice of language from the new school online application system.
Well over 100 000 applications were lodged online yesterday.
The deputy chief executive of the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (Fedsas), Jaco Deacon, said Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi was “pouring petrol on a flammable situation” and contributing to creating chaos among schools in the province.
“This is educationally irresponsible and will create expectations that cannot be met. It is also going to create problems for schools and parents with the incremental introduction of African languages in schools next year, as it is important for schools to know which additional African language they are going to teach,” Deacon told The Citizen.
Figures released last month by the Gauteng department of education showed that it had converted 119 schools that were either Afrikaans-medium or dual-medium to English-medium. Many of these schools were in coloured areas around the province, where Afrikaans is a dominant language and culture.
Earlier this year, the department lost a court challenge after it attempted to force an Afrikaans-medium school – Hoërskool Overvaal in Vereeniging – to accept 55 English-speaking pupils even though the school said it did not have the facilities to accommodate them.
Deacon said Lesufi is a politician and his mandate is to change every single school into an English-medium one.
The operational discussion of schools should be done by the head of the department, Edward Mosuwe, “because politicians will come and go and we need consistency in the department”.
“I think if Lesufi gets his way, we are aiming at changing the language policy of all schools next year. If an Afrikaans-medium school fills up with English speaking pupils, he will change the school to English.
“This will mean that Afrikaans pupils will ultimately be forced to learn in English. The argument is, what about the English child staying next to the Afrikaans school? But what we say is what about the Afrikaans child staying next to the English school?
“The Afrikaans community has limited options, as 89% of the schools are already English. Only 138 schools in the province are Afrikaans single-medium schools. That is 6% of the total number of schools in the province,” Deacon said.
He said if there was really a drive from the GDE of forcing integration, then they would have to relook funding models for dual and parallel-medium schools. But currently it is only about transformation and social cohesion without dealing with the funding side.
The online application system appeared to be running smoothly, with some parents saying it took them less than 10 minutes to complete the online forms. This is in marked contrast to previous years when the application process was marred by bad digital glitches.
Last year, some applicants were allocated schools far from their homes.
This year the department improved the system so that it can take up to 35 000 hits per second. By 11am yesterday, the GDE had received more than 100 000 applications online and parents all received an SMS from the department.
Within an hour after Lesufi switched on and launched the Online Learner Admissions for the 2019 Academic Year at the Atteridgeville Community Hall in Tshwane, 45 239 parents had applied online to have their children placed in schools of their choice.
Lesufi said while he was pleased with the progress so far, there have been some technical problems and he encouraged parents to use Internet Explorer as their browser to access the site.
At the time of going to press, Gauteng education spokesperson Steve Mabona had not responded to queries on the new language policy.
Also read: Lesufi’s trying to kill Afrikaans in schools