The Blacks need Apartheid as the crutch for THEIR FAILURES: Legacy of apartheid still haunts pupils fighting for a decent education in South Africa, 30 years later – My Comments

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I found this story doing the rounds on the social media among whites. I dug into it. The original source for this is used to be one of the best and most reliable Zimbabwe news websites for years.

[It is 30 years of Black rule and the Blacks can't stop blaming Apartheid. They've had 30 years to do everything their way and they changed everything. And they still blame the Whites. In Rhodesia/Zimbabwe it was the same. They couldn't stop blaming colonialism for their problems. These people are just deflecting away from THEM BEING THE FAILURES THAT THEY ARE! So it's always: Blame the Whites, Blame the Whites – even when the Whites did nothing wrong. The Blacks of South Africa are also cry babies like the Black Americans. They had the easiest, best and softest life of all Blacks in Africa – but they cry endlessly about Apartheid. I'm sure the Jews taught them that. Jan]

The spatial divides created during apartheid continue to shape access to quality education in South Africa. Policies that allow or enforce feeder zones for schools often prevent underprivileged pupils from accessing better learning opportunities outside their communities.

American writer William Faulkner said that the past is never dead – it’s not even the past. That is certainly true of South Africa’s education system. The spatial divide created by the apartheid government still exists, even today. Social inequalities and where pupils attend school in the Western Cape are still linked to race and class.

Amnesty International has reported that the “South African education system, characterised by crumbling infrastructure, overcrowded classrooms and relatively poor educational outcomes, is perpetuating inequality”. All of these challenges are mostly found in the rural and township areas where black and coloured people were forced to live under apartheid and where many still live today.

As a result, families living in underresourced areas seek quality education for their children in more affluent neighbourhoods, where former Model C schools are predominantly found. “Semi-private” and former Model C schools offered high-quality education under apartheid and were once reserved for white pupils. Nowadays, efforts by previously disadvantaged parents to enrol their children in these schools are often futile. Children in townships and rural areas are unable to access such schools because of gatekeeping policies, which continue to prioritise pupils who reside in the area in which the school is situated.

It is not a coincidence that many previously disadvantaged pupils live far from former Model C schools. The apartheid legislation deliberately imposed the spatial segregation of people based on race, through legislative measures such as the Group Areas Act. These “pass laws” saw black and coloured people pushed out of the affluent areas and into areas such as Ndabeni, Langa, the Cape Flats and other townships. People living in these areas were also confined to schools in their neighbourhoods.

Read more in Daily Maverick: SA schools still plagued by ‘historical infrastructure backlogs’, overcrowding – Equal Education report

While the pass laws may have been repealed, separation persists in the Western Cape due to rigid school admission policies, which are left to school governing bodies to determine. The reproduction of educational historic injustices is not unique to the Western Cape. In Gauteng, the provincial legislature has passed a provincial act introducing “feeder zones”. This means that schools within a specific geographical location or zone must accommodate pupils from within that same area. Thus, if you are from Tembisa or Alexandra, the statute requires that you be admitted to schools in those areas. This limits freedom of movement.

Yolisa Piliso, a junior attorney at the Equal Education Law Centre. (Photo: Supplied)

Now, more and more township areas are mushrooming, putting pressure on the already overcrowded and underresourced schools. Parents in Gauteng and the Western Cape come to the Equal Education Law Centre’s law clinic, seeking help to place their child in a decent school. Earlier this year, we received an enquiry from a parent in Gugulethu who applied for her child to attend a school in the suburban area of Rondebosch. Her application was unsuccessful due to the school’s oversubscription. The school became oversubscribed because it had first considered pupils who were residents of the area and, as a result, the pupil from Gugulethu was deprioritised and placed in a school in Gugulethu.

Bearing in mind that the parent made no application at a school in Gugulethu, the Western Cape education department’s admission system nevertheless dictated that her child be placed there, since this is where she resides. Of course, one wishes for a South Africa where pupils can simply walk to a well-resourced, well-functioning school, rather than having to wake up at the crack of dawn and make the long trek via public transport to schools far from their homes. This, however, remains a distant dream due to persistent spatial inequalities.

The pupil from Gugulethu is not an isolated case. We see pupils in the same position across provinces. Often, such cases are treated by provincial education departments as a “school of choice” issue. Provinces say their duty under section 3 (3) of the South African Schools Act is simply to ensure that each pupil has a place in a school, not necessarily a place at their school of choice. But this framing is deeply flawed and insulting to pupils and their parents. The “school of choice” argument is not sourced from the text of the legislation. Section 3 is about the duty of the government to admit pupils into schools, and does not contain any framework for excluding pupils from quality education based on location.

Even worse, previously disadvantaged groups live in townships not by choice but by historical design. The dilapidated infrastructure, overcrowded classrooms and poor learning outcomes at township schools can also be attributed to the legacy of the apartheid. In these circumstances, when parents apply for their child to attend a school in a more affluent area, they are not making a trivial choice. They are insisting on their child’s fundamental right to basic education of an adequate standard.

Read more in Daily Maverick: The current schools’ admission policy is failing our children on yet another level

The “closer to home” admission approach is, at face value, praiseworthy and desirable. However, it ignores the disparities and the spatial divide in the education system, where your location coincides with the quality of education you receive. This approach has also been used as a licence to exclude pupils who live in townships.

The duty to ensure enough school places for pupils must be interpreted in light of the South African historical context. The Schools Act was designed to redress the inequities of apartheid. In this case, redress is made subject to a person’s address. School admission policies that continue to mirror the pass laws are anathema to the purpose and the spirit of the legislation. The duty of redress is paramount for everyone in government. Education policies must allow people to break free of the apartheid legacy. DM


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