Durban - An achievement certificate given to last year’s matriculants at a Phoenix school has caused outrage after the ANC’s logo appeared in the corner and it was signed by a senior ANC politician.
The certificates, signed by ANC MP Omie Singh and principal JK Maharaj, were given to 101 pupils from Eastbury Secondary School in Phoenix at a function this month.
The certificates contain a picture of Nelson Mandela, the party’s logo and the words “Mandela’s Children Class of 2013 Achievement Award”.
Tom Stokes, the DA’s provincial spokesman for education, said the ANC had colluded with the principal to promote the party before the Ward 49 by-elections on February 19.
The ward used to be under former DA councillor Ronnie Veeran, who then moved to the ANC, which is the reason the by-election is taking place.
On Thursday political analyst Protas Madlala said schools were not trawling grounds for political parties, and the two should be kept separate.
“A school is not about politics, but education, and it is unfair for someone to impose their political party on our children. It is very wrong,” he said.
Allen Thompson, the deputy president of the National Teachers Union, said education had become a political battlefield, and it was concerning that schools were being used like this.
“We have seen teachers being pulled out of classes by politicians and, when you follow up on those meetings, you find they had nothing to do with education,” he said.
Thompson said it was worrying that schools were being used in this manner.
“Schools and education have nothing to do with politics. Politicians need to stop exploiting their power,” he said.
Stokes said it was illegal to use a school to promote a political party.
“This is in direct contravention of the SA Schools Act. Clearly, the ANC is resorting to desperate measures in the face of dwindling support within the Indian community,” he said.
Stokes said he would write to KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC Peggy Nkonyeni to clarify whether permission had been given for the “public relations stunt”.
However, Singh justified the gesture, saying that before the matric exams last year, they had gone to the school to wish the pupils well.
“After the results were released, it was the school that phoned me asking for a congratulatory letter, as they had achieved a 100 percent pass rate. That is when I thought that we should do better than that, and we did, by having a proper function where we gave each child an award.
“It was our party’s initiative,” he said.
Singh said they did nothing wrong, but everything that was right, to give the pupils the recognition they deserved.
“Nothing is stopping the DA from have a similar function and certificates if they wanted to.
“The DA must stop criticising us all the time. If they really wanted to humiliate us (the ANC), they must also start doing good work,” he said.
A teacher at the school said the staff also saw nothing wrong with the function or the certificates, because what mattered was that the pupils were honoured.
“The last time our school achieved a 100 percent pass rate was in 2003, so it is a big deal for us. I think what the DA is doing is just cheap politics,” he said.
KZN Department of Education spokesman Muzi Mahlambi said he was unaware of what happened and had not seen the certificate.
“We will only be able to comment once we have seen this certificate,” he said.
This is not the first time the ruling party has been criticised for involving a school in politics.
Last year, an ANC billboard erected at Trafalgar High School in Cape Town was removed after an outcry.