Twenty-five years into our challenging democracy, education remains a right enshrined in our beloved Constitution and one which should be protected by all patriotic South Africans. Whether one looks at basic education or higher education, access to providing South African kids, especially black kids, with quality education remains a challenge which MEC Lesufi and his team are attacking head-on.
It cannot be that certain schools, especially those which deliberately cater for minority groups only, taking into consideration the painful, dark and exclusionary past this country has gone through, deem it necessary to continue with their exclusionary nature. It cannot be that 25 years later, our MEC is being attacked for merely doing the most human thing, by providing access to our education system and levelling the playing fields.
The language barrier remains a huge problem which is constantly being used to counter efforts by MEC Panyaza Lesufi to open access to these schools, which have for a long time deliberately excluded black kids.
The introduction of the online application system has proved to be a game changer but has also raised unnecessary criticism from prophets of doom who simply want to exclude kids for merely being black and for not speaking a certain language.
I mean, we live in the same country; although our backgrounds remain very different, we share the same national flag and, ultimately, the same national anthem. So why is it a problem when we want to gain access to these schools, share and level the playing fields?
But as an Africanist, I also have to ask myself why we, black people, taking into consideration that we’re the majority, see it necessary to beg and ask for acceptance from people who’ve enjoyed years of white privilege and have benefited from an inhumane system.
I for one know how embarrassing it is living in a township and having to beg for acceptance at white schools simply because you don’t live in the area. I remember my grandmother having to ask her colleague for permission to use their address through which she would then use to enrol me at a school.
I also remember how, once we had gained access to these schools, and once it had become evident that we did not live in the area, we had to constantly face the question of “why don’t you attend schools from where you’re from”? As painful as that might be, it also raises the question of why I, an African boy, was being asked what I was doing at a school on African soil.
This is not only degrading but it’s done deliberately to keep black kids out because a majority of black people do not live in the white suburbs due to the effects of land disposition, apartheid and general apartheid spatial planning, which still remains a problem even today.
So, it baffles me when the MEC and his hard-working team are attacked and threatened with court action for simply abolishing such anti-black, degrading policies as paying for administration fees, taking aptitude tests, having parents use the addresses of their friends and family and levelling the playing fields. Such work should be commended and encouraged throughout the country. DM