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South Africa’s top elected leaders have refused to divulge if their children go to state or private schools, according to a report.
According to City Press, Media24 Investigations sent questions to President Jacob Zuma, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, the 33 national Cabinet ministers, their deputies, 9 education MECs and 400 members of Parliament asking them if they sent their children to private or public schools.
Fourteen ministers formally refused to provide details of their children’s schooling after advice from the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), and the rest didn’t respond, the report said.
Zuma didn’t respond and Motlanthe refused to participate.
The only Cabinet minister who responded was Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, who revealed that her child went to a private school, the report said. She later said her son was a second-year student at the University of Johannesburg.
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said he had discussed the questionnaire with his legal team and said that it was his “constitutional right” not to divulge any information.
Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane said he didn’t understand why the information should be public.
Media24 Investigations said the questions had been prompted by the national debate on the quality of public education.
“Knowing where South Africa’s elected political leaders educated their children indicates their confidence in the system for which they oversee policy and budgets, and which is currently responsible for educating 12.2 million children,” it said.
According to the report, the GCIS advised ministers and deputy ministers not to respond.
“It is not a matter of public interest,” the report quoted GCIS’s acting chief executive, Phumla Williams, as saying.
Cosatu called it “unfortunate” that Cabinet ministers would not reveal these details, the report said.
“The only conclusion I can make is that their kids are in private schools,” Cosatu’s spokesman Patrick Craven was quoted as saying.
“It shows they don’t have much faith in their public institutions. Our public schools should be of such a high standard that ministers would want their children to go there.”
Craven said that although public office bearers had a right to privacy, the public had a right to know how they regarded public institutions like schools and hospitals.
Doron Isaacs, the co-ordinator of advocacy group Equal Education, told City Press that political leaders were “hypocrites” for defending a system they themselves seemed to avoid.
He called on political leaders to choose public schools for their children.
“I think if minister Motshekga was trusted to improve the quality of education in public schools, it would matter less that her children are in private schools.
“Unfortunately, the public no longer trusts her. On textbooks and school infrastructure standards, she has failed.
“She has seemed aloof and lacking in empathy. Therefore, that her children are not in the public schooling system will anger many,” he said.
South African Democratic Teachers’ Union general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said that those who served the public should use public services.