Sin­gle re­li­gion schools un­law­ful

Court: One faith can’t be pro­moted over an­other


ALL SCHOOLS should em­bark on ed­u­ca­tion pro­cesses to in­form com­mu­ni­ties about the new pol­icy on re­li­gion, as­sisted by the Depart­ment of Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion (DBE).

These were the strong views of Mahlo­mola Kekana, chair­per­son of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Par­ents in School Gov­er­nance, while re­act­ing to yes­ter­day’s judg­ment in the high court in Joburg that no public school could ad­here to and pro­mote one sin­gle re­li­gion.

Kekana said the DBE should train all school gov­ern­ing bod­ies (SGBs) in or­der for this judg­ment to be im­ple­mented ad­e­quately and not ad­versely af­fect the dif­fer­ent re­li­gions prac­tised in schools.

“The process must be a con­sul­ta­tion process; all stake­hold­ers must be con­sulted. For ex­am­ple, if you have a Hindu or Chris­tian pupil and there is assem­bly, you must give each dom­i­na­tion at least five min­utes each (for prayers).”

In hand­ing down his rul­ing yes­ter­day, Judge Willem van der Linde stated: “It is de­clared that it of­fends for a public school to pro­mote or al­low its staff to pro­mote that it, as a public school, ad­heres to only one or pre­dom­i­nately one re­li­gion to the ex­clu­sion of oth­ers, and to hold out that it pro­motes the in­ter­est of any one re­li­gion in favour of oth­ers.”

Kekana wel­comed the rul­ing, say­ing his as­so­ci­a­tion had been ad­vo­cat­ing this stand­point, as South Africa was a di­verse na­tion that should be al­lowed to in­ter­act in di­ver­sity.

He added that his or­gan­i­sa­tion would play its part to en­sure that the judg­ment was ad­hered to. “We have plans in place to as­sist in train­ing gov­ern­ing bod­ies and we urge the DBE to fol­low suit.”

DBE spokesper­son Eli­jah Mh­langa said in a state­ment that the depart­ment wel­comed the judg­ment, say­ing the rul­ing was in line with the depart­ment’s own poli­cies and the con­sti­tu­tion, that no re­li­gion should be pro­moted above an­other.

“The aim is not to ban re­li­gious prac­tices in schools, but it’s about pro­tect­ing chil­dren and em­pha­sis­ing that schools should en­gage in re­li­gious ed­u­ca­tion rather than re­li­gious in­struc­tion,” Mh­langa said, adding that no change would take place as a re­sult of this judg­ment.

Ash­win Trikam­jee, the pres­i­dent of the South African Hindu Maha Sabha, an or­gan­i­sa­tion rep­re­sent­ing the as­pi­ra­tions of the Hindu com­mu­nity, said he hoped the judg­ment would end what he called dis­crim­i­na­tion against Hindi school­child­ren, which his or­gan­i­sa­tion had had to deal with.

“The Hindu Maha Sabha has been re­ceiv­ing reg­u­lar com­plaints about chil­dren go­ing to schools (where they) are in­doc­tri­nated with these re­li­gions, and be­ing told: ‘Our schools are Chris­tian and if you don’t like it, then you can leave’,” Trikam­jee said.

The Rev Ken­neth Meshoe, leader of the African Chris­tian Demo­cratic Party, was de­lighted that the court did not halt the teach­ing of the Bi­ble in schools.

Kekana said the judg­ment should not af­fect the run­ning of schools and that par­ents or guardians should fa­mil­iarise them­selves with all poli­cies that are adopted at the var­i­ous schools.

“The con­sti­tu­tion, in­clud­ing the Bill of Rights and the Schools Act of 1996, make it clear that South Africa be­longs to all who live in it.”

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