Apartheid in academia

South Africa's stubborn Whites are blocking the "new order's" desegregation in schools

Published: Tuesday 28 February 1995

Mandela: his education program ALL White student bodies in the state schools of South Africa are now liberally punctuated with Blacks. Starting January 11-17, these institutions opened their gates to Black children in their vicinity. A bitter controversy had marred the first "registration days" in model-c schools around Johannesburg, set up by the erstwhile F W de Klerk government to offer parents more say in the running of state schools in return for modest school fees. While some of these model-c schools have now accepted the "new order" of desegregation, some others are refusing to raise the barriers.

Black radicals feel that these schools are still being driven by racist sentiments, but school authorities argue that some Black students are outright ineligible: either they are too old, or their parents are not residents of the area.

A more serious controversy is brewing around schools stubbornly teaching guttural Afrikaans, a language most Blacks prefer not to know. In another instance of apartheid absurdity, a primary school set down a condition that new students would have to undergo an aids test. Faced with a volley of criticism, the school had to finally withdraw the condition. Black activists are demanding that these schools be converted into "parallel medium" institutions which would teach in both English and Afrikaans.

Many basic faults still exist in South Africa's education system: township schools are severely overcrowded; the trauma and neglect of the apartheid years has rendered Black students incapable of academic competence compared to White students. While the first step to repair has now been taken, Nelson Mandela's well-meaning government is still faced with pockets of apartheid where it can hurt most.

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.