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Hoërskool Overvaal: School community fears protests will impact on learning

Thabo Mohlala

Amid calls to halt the standoff outside the premises of the beleaguered Hoërskool Overvaal in Vereeniging, Congress of South African Students (Cosas) upped the ante and threatened to intensify its protest action.

Parents, teachers and other role players are calling for decisive steps before the confrontation spills into the classroom and disrupts learning and teaching.

The comments made by Cosas’s greater Johannesburg region chairperson, Penuel Maduna, Friday morning during an interview with 702 gave substance to the concern. Maduna was responding to allegations that one of its members issued a call to members of the organisation to attack white people.

Although he conceded the call was made by one its members, who will face disciplinary action. 

Maduna said however, that the call was a direct response to some white parents who were seen armed with guns outside the school premises. Some protestors were armed with knobkieries.

Maduna said the problem could have long been nipped in the bud had the minister of basic education, Angie Motshekga, taken heed of Cosas’s request to prevent schools from using Afrikaans as a medium of instruction.

“We don’t have a problem with the department itself. The only problem is the minister of education because we have been writing letters to her department asking her to change the language policy so that English is the only medium of instruction in all the South African. And that all other languages must be treated equally, we cannot have schools that use Afrikaans while there are no schools that use our African languages. And we are saying that we can no longer be romantic about this issue nor can we continue to write letters because those white people have declared war against us by carrying weapons. We see this as a declaration of war,” said Maduna.

He said they were going to take on the fight against the use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction as the generation of 1976 did against the apartheid government, adding: “There is nothing special about Afrikaans”.  

Maduna vowed they would do everything in their power to make sure the school does not function until they have appointed their own interim principal.

Meanwhile, Suid Afrikaanse Onderwyser-Unie (Saou) has put the blame of the escalating violent protest at the school at the door of Gauteng MEC of education, Panyaza Lesufi. In the statement released late yesterday, the teacher union said Lesufi wanted to achieve his objective of placing 55 learners at all costs even though he was told Hoërskool Overvaal has reached its capacity.

“Lesufi made it clear from the outset that he intended to achieve his objective: the placing of 55 English learners at an Afrikaans high school which is already full. His insistence on taking the school to court and involving the learners in the process directly fomented the resultant emotional violence on the part of the parents and community at large following the court judgment” read the statement.

The union said by targeting Afrikaans as a language, Lesufi betrayed his “political agendas” as this matter had very little to do with the “supply of quality education for all in the province”.

Saou further said: “At no point has Panyaza Lesufi or his department answered the obvious question: Why have sufficient numbers of schools not been timeously built to meet ever-growing numbers of learners needing to be placed? Is the MEC aware of the Education realities that obtain in his province? In the current year alone no fewer than between 20-30 new schools are required to begin to address the need.”

About 27 people have been arrested since the protests started on Wednesday.

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