Minister of Tourism and ANC Social Transformation Committee chair Lindiwe Sisulu’s call for race quotas at all schools poses a threat to South Africa’s founding value of non-racialism, says the Institute of Race Relations (IRR).

Sisulu told an ANC-hosted ‘media dialogue’ on new transformation policies that are set to be taken forward at this weekend’s ANC National Policy Conference that ‘(no) school should be registered unless they have 50/50 black and white students’.

In a statement, the IRR notes that ‘(this) is not Minister Sisulu’s first call for more aggressive racialism. Four days after the State Capture Commission criticised race preferencing in government contracts, recommending non-racial “value for money” as a better priority, Minister Sisulu wrote that “in the high echelons of our judicial system are these mentally colonised Africans”, a racialised slur that mistakenly indexes principles to pigment.

‘She insulted the “mentally colonised” further by writing that in America such people “are called House Negroes” who “sing from the same hymn book, spouting the Roman Dutch law of property”.’

Minister Sisulu’s ‘call to deregister schools unless they have an equal number of black and white students is not only inimical to non-racialism, and therefore wrong in principle, but also impractical without causing immense damage.

‘85.5% of the population below 20 years of age is black, while 4.5% of the same cohort is white. That means if a 1:1 ratio is to be maintained at all schools, then over 80% of the black population must be excluded from schooling.’

The IRR says that this ‘raises the question of how many students are currently prevented from completing their schooling with sufficient skills to join the labour market’.

‘For years, the IRR has employed a “leave no child behind” format to answer this question. This calculates the matric pass rate against the number of grade 1s who entered the public school system 12 years earlier, thereby including in the “fail” portion those who dropped out of dysfunctional schools before their final exam.

‘On this “leave no child behind” evaluation, over 80% of South African minors in the public school system are effectively left behind. Given its extraordinarily high budget, and crippling underperformance, South Africa’s public school system has been called the “world’s worst” on a bang-for-buck basis.’

The IRR argues that Minister Sisulu’s ‘injunction to solve bad public education by implementing race quotas is consonant with warnings the IRR has sounded about the Basic Education Law Amendment (BELA) Bill, which it has formally opposed in written submissions to Parliament’.

‘The BELA Bill will give provincial government officials the ability to take away non-racial school admission policies endorsed by parent bodies and replace them with racial engineering policies like those Sisulu endorses.’

Drawing on its surveys of public opinion, the IRR says that based on responses to survey questions, ‘(most) people want more power in schooling to be taken from politicians and put in the hands of parents, on a non-racial basis’.

‘In the 2018 survey, respondents were asked if they would prefer their child’s teachers to be “the same race as you”, or to indicate if “it doesn’t matter as long as [the] teacher is good”. 18% of black respondents and 7% of white respondents sadly insisted that teachers should be the same race as the children they teach, indicating the presence of racialism.

‘However, 84% of all respondents, including 95% of coloured respondents, 94% of Indian respondents, 92% of white respondents, and 81% of black respondents, said race “doesn’t matter as long as [the] teacher is good”.’

When asked if people would prefer tax-funded vouchers to enable them to send children to low-cost private schools, ‘almost 80% of black respondents said “yes”’.

The IRR says it endorses this ‘as a practical alternative to the politicising and racialising of school education under the BELA Bill’.

‘In 2020, respondents were asked what would personally be better, a voucher system for public education and other welfare programmes or more BEE? 73% of black respondents said they would “get ahead more effectively” with the former than the latter.’

Said IRR Head of Campaigns Gabriel Crouse: ‘Minister Sisulu represents a vicious minority that insult people with racial terms like ‘House Negro’ and who try to box people, even children, by race. This does not help. By contrast the vast majority, most of whom are poor and black, have non-racialist and practical preferences that could be implemented to skill this country up. It is time the silent majority gets respect.

The IRR’s submission to Parliament and details of its campaign, Your child, your educational choice, are available here: https://irr.org.za/campaigns/childrens-education


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