‘We’re fined R10 for speaking Xhosa’

Cape Town – A pupil has alleged that a Cape Town school fines pupils R10 for speaking isiXhosa. It doubled from R5 last year.

The school’s name is being withheld. The pupil, who has asked to not be named for fear of victimisation, told the Cape Times: “The student leaders will write your name and write the amount of money next to it. If you don’t pay the fine, you get detention,” she said.

According to her, the school’s reasoning for enforcing this rule was to better their English marks.

The pupil’s mother confirmed her daughter had been fined for speaking her home language.

She said rules at the school had remained the same for years and parents had not questioned them.

But the school principal said on Sunday night: “In the light of current events this matter is one of serious concern. I am, however, able to say that in our code of conduct, admission and language policy, no mention is made of fining learners for speaking languages other than English. No mention exists of this in any staff meeting minutes or school management team minutes.

“We encourage learners to speak English at school to aid with their language skills in this subject. However, we do also offer Xhosa and Afrikaans as first additional language subjects at our school.

“I have made it known to the girls that I am very approachable. And though many of the girls have come and discussed issues with me in my office, no one has brought any complaint regarding a fine for speaking a language other than English to my attention.”

Western Cape Education Department spokesperson Jessica Shelver said it was the first their office has heard of the allegations and district officials had been requested to visit the school to investigate.

She said claims of racism and discrimination were taken seriously by the department.

This comes as allegations continue to emerge about discriminatory policies at schools across the country.

Sans Souci Girls’ High School pupils, who receive demerits for speaking isiXhosa, will on Monday hand over a memorandum demanding the changes they want to see in the school’s code of conduct.

Protests erupted at the school last week after the girls spoke out about institutionalised racism perpetuated through the code.

The girls say the school rules do not accommodate their natural hair, and they are not allowed to speak their home language if it is not English.

Many of the girls showed they had been given a demerit for speaking isiXhosa in their yellow merit book.

Alice Mbongwa, the parent of a Sans Souci pupil, said the girls and parents would meet on Monday night to map out the way forward to a transformed school.

She said the pupils and parents would call for the scrapping of yellow merit books the girls had to carry with them at all times, which some have called a dompas – the hated permit from the apartheid regime without which blacks were not allowed to enter white areas.

And the memorandum would include the call for the removal of Charmaine Murray as principal.

“We are calling for the code of conduct to be improved and inclusive. It is currently an oppressive code of conduct.”

Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schafer has given the school until the end of this month to come up with a new code of conduct. A department official would oversee the process as an investigation continues into the serious allegations of racism and discrimination at the school.

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