DA wants to scrap Afrikaner school names in Western Cape

The Democratic Alliance wants to change the names of schools named after Afrikaner public figures in the past in the province it is currently ruling, the Western Cape. According to IOL, “This announcement was made by Education MEC Debbie Schäfer during her 2015/16 education budget vote speech on Thursday, and comes at a time when school names are also under the spotlight in Gauteng.”

Schäfer said it had recently been brought to her attention, during a visit to the Swartland, that during the years of Afrikaner rule former Model C schools were called high schools, while House of Representative (coloured) and Department of Education and Training (black) schools were referred to as secondary schools.

She said there had been a previous opportunity for schools to have their names changed, but because the matter was still being raised indicated it required attention.

“As an extension of the City of Cape Town’s recently launched Inclusive City initiative, we want to ensure that as a province, no school should feel that it is defined in any way on the basis of race. As it is the prerogative of the school to make such an application, I would like to appeal to any school in the province that feels that the name of their school is still representative of ethnic affiliation, to now make an application to the Western Cape Education Department to change the name of the school to one that is inclusive.”

She told the Cape Argus that the process would be “entirely voluntary”.

“We do not wish the ethnic classifications to be perpetuated, and want all people in the Western Cape to feel included. “Obviously it is dependent on the school as to whether they want to change it.”

In some cases a high school and a secondary school in the same town shared a name, and in cases like this, one might propose a different name.

The governing body would have to apply to the department for the name change and this would have to be based on a decision taken at a meeting that had been recorded. Their request would be submitted via their district office, which would have to indicate its support or not.

This would then be forwarded to the department.

Riyaadh Najaar, principal of the Progressive Principals’ Association, said many schools, including his own, Spine Road High, had decided to call themselves high schools and not secondary schools.

“The department on its system and in its communications with us still calls us Spine Road Secondary. It shouldn’t even be necessary for schools to apply to have this changed as the department knows the connotations.”

Keith Long, principal of Rhodes High School in Mowbray, said there had previously been a discussion around a name change for the school but it wasn’t supported. Generally speaking, the DA is in favour of retaining British-colonial names, especially that of Cecil John Rhodes.

He said while the school was not “directly” named after Cecil John Rhodes, he had recently raised the issue with the executive of the school’s SRC, who would now raise it with the pupils.

Wilfred Taylor, principal of Eben Dönges High in Kraaifontein, named after an Afrikaner minister, said he believed that changing a name couldn’t change what had taken place in the past.

The school had made much progress in terms of racial transformation over the years, “despite its name”. Whites were being marginalised with mixed-race coloureds and blacks favoured.