Schools should encourage diversity

Mbali Ntuli, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on Education

With a new year soon upon us, many parents have applied to schools of their choice in the hope of educating their children to secure their futures. Yet every year there are those who are faced with a letter of rejection.

The autonomy of our schools is crucial.  It is a large factor in the success of many of our schools.  This includes the right to set their own admissions policy amongst others. But when that autonomy is used to gate keep or reserve spaces for certain types of students it becomes a problem.

The law is very clear about the schools denying access to a learner based on discriminations set out in our Constitution. The National Education Act says specifically of admissions that ‘The admission policy of a public school and the administration of admissions by an education department must not unfairly discriminate in any way against an applicant for admission.’

It is therefore disconcerting that some schools seem to routinely deny admissions to pupils – who in some cases live less than a kilometre from the school to which they have applied – seemingly on the grounds of race, religion and other spurious claims.

I am currently dealing with many frustrated parents who have been denied the ability to enrol their children into schools most convenient for them on such grounds. Whilst, in these cases, there will be a follow up with the department of Education it is worth reminding ourselves of the inherent advantages of diversity in our schools.

Study after study shows that children brought up or schooled in diverse environments whether socially, class, race or religious and others, display a far better understanding of the world. They are able with relative ease to navigate the many nuanced complexities of a society with a history such as ours.

It is therefore the duty of parents, school governing bodies and school authorities to actively strive to provide a holistic and diverse school environment for our learners.

Our country sorely needs more tolerance and empathy towards one another. We will only be stronger once we are able to honestly say we understand each other. Schools, due to the ability and scope they have to shape young lives and instil values are our nation’s biggest hope in fostering a generation of citizens that will lead this country forward, united.