May 5, 2003

Schools not yet melting pots

Racial representivity among teaching staff is lacking in most Gauteng public schools. And close to half of formerly whites-only schools have less than 20% African enrolment, probably because of language and fees policies at these schools.

At the same time, deracialisation in schools is increasing - but not in former Department of Education and Training (DET: African) schools. There is also still a perceived hierarchy of privilege and quality that situates former DET schools at the bottom, followed by former House of Representatives (HOR: coloured) and former House of Delegates (HOD: Indian) schools, with former Transvaal Education Department (TED: white) schools seen to occupy pole position.

"When the provincial picture is analysed, it appears that the educator force is racially representative," writes Mohammad Sujee, an analyst in the Gauteng Department of Education's chief directorate of education financing, planning and monitoring. But when the data is broken down by school and by learner representivity, among other variables, "then it is evident that there is little or no deracialisation of the educator staff in some of the public ordinary schools".

Sujee's analysis of school migration and demography in Gauteng appears in the latest edition of the Quarterly Review of Education & Training in South Africa, a publication of Wits University's education policy unit. The April 2000 annual survey that Sujee cites showed that Gauteng had a total of 1 900 public schools. Of these 1 169 were former DET, 553 former TED, 80 former HOR and 59 former HOD. Thirty-nine were new schools, established after 1994. The 1996 census broke down Gauteng's racial population: 70% African, 23,2% white, 3,8% coloured, 2,2% Indian/Asian, and 0,8% "other/unspecified".

In 40% of former TED schools, fewer than 20% of the learners are African, Sujee writes, and 11 schools have no African learners at all. In this large complement of schools, "very little deracialisation of learners is taking place and this could be due to a number of factors, such as language policy and school fee structures".

There are 1 432 schools - 75% of the total - that have higher than 80% African enrolment, Sujee observes, and of these 101 are former TED schools. Here, "where there is a majority of [African] learners, one tends to find that the majority of the educators are white". There are 40 schools, for example - 8% of the former TED schools - in which more than 90% of the teachers are white, while their African learner population exceeds 80%. "It is therefore evident that there is a limited amount of deracialisation and that racial representivity in the staff composition is lacking in most schools," Sujee says.

Even so, the Quarterly Review analysis shows that the rate of deracialisation is increasing - but not in former DET schools. This "highlights the old hierarchy of apartheid - the resources are still found in the suburbs". "It also shows that in the other former departmental schools there was space to accommodate these learners and furthermore it highlights the perception of people that the top of the old apartheid hierarchy is where 'quality' education is to be found."

More than 74% of African learners who have moved are in the former DET schools, and just over 11% are in the former TED schools. "There is a small decrease of learners from the former DET schools to the other former department schools," Sujee says, "but this does not indicate that the learner numbers have decreased. The contrary is true. There is an increase in the number of learners in all of the former departments, especially the former DET schools."

The study challenges the perception that deracialisation of schools means that learners are vacating townships, so that the number of learners in townships is decreasing. Noting that migration from one school to another is difficult to monitor, Sujee writes: "The movement of learners from township schools to suburban schools has been debated and will continue to be debated." But "learner enrolment numbers in township schools have not decreased but rather increased over the years".

The enforcement of the South African Schools Act (1996) has resulted in an increase in the proportion of African learners in Gauteng from 69% in 1996 to 72% in 2000. And when learners move out of township schools, "these vacated seats are being filled by other learners who have come into these areas from outlying and rural areas". Indian and coloured learners show the greatest migration from one category of school to another: they have moved from their respective former departments to former TED schools and independent schools. There has been an especially sharp decrease in Indian learners in former HOD schools: 78% enrolment in 1996 to under 50% in 2000. And white learners in independent schools increased from 8% in 1996 to 13,6% in 2000. But more than 86% of all white learners are still in the public ordinary school sector, Sujee notes.

This analysis relies only on quantitative data, Sujee concludes. "The concept of deracialisation requires further research into the attitudes, friendships and group dynamics within schools so as to get the real sense of whether deracialisation is really taking place or not." (Mail & Guardian, Johannesburg)

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