Afrikaner parents step up school battle

ROBERT BLOCK

Johannesburg

Conservative white parents in South Africa's Northern Province may have lost a battle for control over who is admitted to Potgietersrus primary school, but their fight against the integration of their offspring with black children goes on.

Yesterday morning, the parents of about 150 Afrikaner students scuffled with police who prevented them entering a hostel where they had set up alternative classrooms.

The parents' occupation of the hostel, earlier this week, was their latest move to obtain a separate state education for their children following a court ruling last month that the school's attempt to exclude children of other races was illegal. The parents had taken over the building across the street from the school despite threats from the provincial government that it would fight any ploy it interpreted as racist or segregationist. Until last week, the children had been taught by volunteers at a local church. But the church did not have the facilities to handle 150 pupils, so the parents moved them back to the school premises for a final showdown.

In response, Ngoako Ramathlodi, the governor of the Northern Province, yesterday took over control of the school and informed the governing body of his intention to dissolve it. He ordered police to close down the hostel- school by preventing anyone entering. A spokesman for the province said: "Instruction in Afrikaans continues at the school like it always has. Taking the children out of the main building and placing them in the hostel to prevent them from mixing with black children is nothing but racism."

The parents claim they are trying to guarantee their children a proper education in their native language. But the fact remains that they are in the minority. About 400 white children continue to attend classes.

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