File picture: Independent Media
Apartheid spatial design is severely disadvantaging pupils who attend schools in townships throughout the country.

Townships, relics of National Party rule, have hardly changed since the advent of democracy. In many cases they have become worse.

The police annual crime figures highlight the fact that most murders occur in townships. Townships are, moreover, hotbeds of rape and sexual abuse. Gangsterism thrives among their sub-economic flats and houses. Deadly drug turf wars are the norm. And law-abiding citizens live in fear for themselves and their children.

And it is these children who have to run a gauntlet every day to get to and from school. There is no safety even in the schools, as the number of gang-related stabbings and shootings of pupils have proved over the years.

In short, township schools have denied proper opportunities to thousands of poor children. They destroy ambition.

Parents have the right to demand and to get the best for their children. If a township school cannot offer quality education for pupils because it does not have the facilities, or if it cannot guarantee the safety for those attending it, parents should have the right to send their children to another school - of their choice.

But far too many school governing bodies (SGBs), especially those of old Model C schools, have been acting as gatekeepers - keeping out the poor, the black and the less privileged.

They must be stopped.

And this is why we believe that proposals to curb the powers of SGBs in a proposed Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill should be welcomed.

The draft bill, which was published last month, includes the right for the Basic Education Department to take back the power of decision-making at schools from SGBs.

Opponents of the bill have lashed out at the government, describing its attempts to amend the law as a “threat to education”.

The South African Constitution guarantees every child the right to a quality education. Islands of exclusivity should not be allowed to be set up in our country - 23 years after the defeat of apartheid.

Children in our townships have every right to attend a school that can provide them with a quality education - and with facilities that will enable them to hone their skills, whether academically or in sport.

Cape Argus