Pretoria - The names of former Model C schools that “glorified apartheid” must fall as they are contributing to racist incidents at these schools.
So claims the Congress of South African Students (Cosas) and Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi.
Cosas said the names in Pretoria being targeted include Hoërskool Hendrik Verwoerd, Hoërskool FH Odendaal, Hoër Tegniese Skool John Vorster and Hoërskool Staatpresident CR Swart.
Pretoria High School for Girls, rocked by hair protests in August, also appears on the list.
Cosas called on the Gauteng Education Department to fast-track plans to rename these schools as promised by Lesufi early this year. It criticised Lesufi for dragging his feet and threatened consequences should he fail to act soon.
In March, while delivering his address on the state of education in the provincial legislature, Lesufi called on schools with names of apartheid leaders to change them voluntarily, or the department would intervene and force them to do so.
He gave them guidelines for changing the names deemed offensive, and six months within which to do so. That period expired last month. “This is the new South Africa. Names that glorify apartheid must go... So apartheid names must fall,” Lesufi had told the legislature.
He said the same rules would apply to school emblems and signage. “Like HF Verwoerd, We are coming. They can’t have those kinds of names,” he said.
Cosas provincial leader Thabang Mahlomusa said complaints of racism in former Model C schools were directly linked to the names.
“We believe that these names are a major contributory factor to the racism rows in these schools.
“Pretoria High School for Girls and Hendrik Verwoerd should be named after real heroes of our freedom because this democracy we are enjoying was not for free,” Mahlomusa said.
“This call is informed by the rising complaints of racism in our schools; we strongly believe that this racism is inspired by the names given to the schools.
“Teachers who teach at such schools tend to think that they are above the law,” he claimed, accusing the department of “moving like tortoises” when it comes to resolving disputes such as that at Girls High.
Mahlomusa threated that Cosas would force the removal of racist teachers who victimised pupils in schools if Lesufi - who he said had been “soft” - did not act.
He called for feedback on the outcome of the investigation into the hair incident at Girls High, where girls protested that they were not allowed to wear their hair in natural styles and were on the receiving end of racist comments from certain teachers.”If the MEC won’t take responsibility for transformation of these schools, we will force him to,” he said, saying this would start with occupying his office.
But Lesufi said the name-change process was at an advanced stage with communication taking place between the affected schools, the department and the community.
Change was necessary, and names glorifying heroes of apartheid must go, he said. “We have allowed the schools to give us an idea of what they think would be the best way moving forward.
“Talks are ongoing, but we need to consult with some state institutions as this is a very sensitive matter. We have to tread carefully to ensure legalities are considered.”
WHO ARE THE MEN THESE SCHOOLS ARE NAMED AFTER?
Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd
HF Verwoerd studied theology, philosophy and psychology in South Africa, Germany, the UK and US; worked as a lecturer and was editor of Die Transvaler newspaper, minister of native affairs and became prime minister in 1958 after the death of JG Strijdom. Often attributed the title of “Architect of Apartheid”, a number of apartheid acts were introduced during his tenure. He was stabbed by Dimitrios Tsafendas while sitting at his desk in the House of Assembly in 1996 and died.
Balthazar Johannes Vorster
John Vorster studied law. He was elected to Parliament in 1953, becoming minister of justice, police and prisons before succeeding Hendrik Verwoerd as prime minister in 1966.
He practised as a lawyer and was politically involved with JG Strijdom. He was a member of the National Party’s Bureau of Information and the Ossewa Brandwag. In 1948 he was elected a member of the provincial council and became the administrator of the then Transvaal in 1958.
Charles Robberts Swart
CR “Blackie” Swart practised law and journalism before moving into politics. He was minister of justice when the National Party came to power and was responsible for legislation which suppressed anti-apartheid activity. He was the last Governor-General of the Union of South and the first State President of the Republic of South Africa in the years from 1961 to 1967.