White pupils flee ex-model C schools

Sunday Times - - Front Page - By PREGA GOVEN­DER

● When Manuel Goven­der was ap­pointed the first black prin­ci­pal of New­cas­tle High 10 years ago, he re­ceived sev­eral let­ters from Afrikaans par­ents de­mand­ing his re­moval.

At the time, more than 760 of the 950 pupils at the for­mer Model C school in north­ern KwaZulu-Na­tal were white. This year, there are only nine.

It is sim­i­lar at the once pre­dom­i­nantly white Est­court High in the KwaZulu-Na­tal Mid­lands, about 180km from New­cas­tle, which has eight white pupils this year.

The Sun­day Times found that dozens of for­mer Model C schools ei­ther had only a few white pupils, or none at all. Of­fi­cials call it “white flight”.

For­mer Model C schools in Gaut­eng that have no white pupils in­clude Pre­to­ria Tech­ni­cal High, Daspoort Sec­ondary, Eland­spoort High, Lan­gen­hoven High, Clapham High and Parkhurst Pri­mary.

Other Gaut­eng schools, in­clud­ing Hil­lview High, Pre­to­ria West High and Voortrekker­hoogte High, each have just one white pupil.

This week teach­ers and prin­ci­pals said most white pupils had moved to ei­ther pri­vate or pre­dom­i­nantly Afrikaans-medium schools, and their places had been filled by pupils from town­ship schools.

The re­cently re­leased re­sults of the Gen­eral House­hold Sur­vey found that at least 16.7% of high school pupils and 14.3% of pri­mary school pupils in the coun­try were not at­tend­ing the school clos­est to their homes.

The poor qual­ity of teach­ing at their lo­cal schools was given as the rea­son for the com­mute.

Re­spond­ing to a par­lia­men­tary ques­tion from the DA on the short­age of schools in Green­stone, Ekurhu­leni, Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Angie Mot­shekga re­cently said par­ents liv­ing in the area were ap­par­ently not in­ter­ested in send­ing their chil­dren to the three lo­cal schools.

In­stead, 2 353 out of the 3 440 pupils at­tend­ing Eastleigh Pri­mary, No­bel Pri­mary and Eden­glen Pri­mary, which are all in Green­stone, are from Tem­bisa and Alexan­dra.

Mar­ion Wheater, who has been prin­ci­pal of Sax­on­wold Pri­mary in Jo­han­nes­burg since 1994, said white fam­i­lies moved their chil­dren to “whiter” schools when they saw chil­dren of other races be­ing ad­mit­ted.

“They [white fam­i­lies] didn’t think that they wanted to in­te­grate and they be­lieved stan­dards would be low­ered. You know, the big stan­dards de­bate. Sax­on­wold opened its door to all races in 1992 and the ex­o­dus started in 1994.”

The ex­o­dus was due to the “fear of dif­fer­ence”, she said.

“From my ex­pe­ri­ence, there are white peo­ple who are not open to change and so the trend is that from our school they have moved to other schools.

“We work to­wards ex­cel­lence and we have high ex­pec­ta­tions of our chil­dren.”

The school has 438 pupils — 346 of whom are black African, 48 In­dian, 24 coloured and 20 white.

The par­ent of the only white pupil en­rolled at the pre-school sec­tion at Sax­on­wold Pri­mary said her daugh­ter had been at the school since she was six months old.

“I do think that a lot of white fam­i­lies are dol­ing out the cash to send their kids to pri­vate schools. If you own a house in Sax­on­wold, you can af­ford to send your kids to pri­vate schools.”

But she did not be­lieve that the mi­gra­tion of white pupils from some of the for­mer Model C schools had any­thing to do with the huge black en­rol­ment at these in­sti­tu­tions.

“I think they [white fam­i­lies] also just lost a lit­tle bit of faith in the gov­ern­ment ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.”

Goven­der de­clined to com­ment, but the Sun­day Times es­tab­lished that par­ents of pupils at­tend­ing New­cas­tle High were up­set af­ter prayers at as­sem­bly. The prayers had been Chris­tian in char­ac­ter, but had been changed to also ac­com­mo­date other re­li­gions.

Jaco Dea­con, deputy CEO of the Fed­er­a­tion of Gov­ern­ing Bod­ies of South African Schools, said there was def­i­nitely a “white flight” out of some schools.

Asked if the large black en­rol­ment and more black teach­ers be­ing ap­pointed in for­mer Model C schools could have driven white pupils out, he said: “It played a role in some house­holds, but def­i­nitely not in the ma­jor­ity of house­holds.

“They [white pupils] ex­ited the sys­tem or they mi­grated to sin­gle-medium Afrikaans schools where they can still get moth­er­tongue ed­u­ca­tion. Lan­guage is one of the most im­por­tant fac­tors par­ents con­sider when mov­ing their chil­dren.”

He said the pos­i­tive thing was that the for­mer Model C schools were now still be­ing used for the ben­e­fit of the school com­mu­nity.

“The mere fact that the com­mu­nity around the school changed should not change the qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion or the cul­ture of learn­ing.”

They [white pupils] ex­ited or mi­grated to Afrikaans schools where they get mother-tongue ed­u­ca­tion Jaco Dea­con Deputy CEO of the Fed­er­a­tion of Gov­ern­ing Bod­ies of South African Schools

Pic­ture: Masi Losi

There are no more white chil­dren in this Grade 5 class at Sax­on­wold Pri­mary School in Jo­han­nes­burg.

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