Because of these complaints, the religious policy at the school was put on hold until a new governing body was elected at the beginning of 2009. Since then the illegal practice has again been taken up. On the school’s website these clear contraventions of national policy is there for all to see (http://www.lstellen.wcape.school.za/gedragskode.htm). I only want to emphasise a few examples of this blatant disrespect for the laws of the country and the bad example set to young children:
“Die skool sal ‘n Christelike karakter hê en dit sal in alle aktiwiteite uitgeleef word” (my emphasis);
“Laerskool Stellenbosch stel dit ten doel om: Deur woord en daad Christelike lewenswaardes vir leerders te moduleer om sodoende ‘n lewensingesteldheid te kweek” (my emphasis).
This is just one example of daily contraventions of the National Policy on Religion in Education at Stellenbosch Laerskool and where the wishes and warnings of these parents are still being ignored and in fact ridiculed.
In a letter to the school governing body a groups of parents emphasised the following, still being ignored by the continuing religious policy at the school:
Paragraph 6.1 of the National Policy on Religion in Education clearly indicates that school assemblies must reflect the multi-religious nature of the whole of South Africa: “Where a religious observance is organised, as an official part of the school day, it must accommodate and reflect the multi-religious nature of the country in an appropriate manner.”
“It may not ONLY be Christian,” the parents emphasised. “Does the school governing body also understand it in this way? It means that the practicing of religious rituals during class time may not take place in general classes. Please read the national policy on this carefully.”
The parents also quoted from section 6.3 of the National Policy on Religion in Education:
“A school assembly has the potential for affirming and celebrating unity in diversity, and should be used for this purpose. Public schools may not violate the religious freedom of pupils and teachers by imposing religious uniformity on a religiously diverse school population in school assemblies. Where a religious observance is included in a school assembly, pupils may be excused on grounds of conscience from attending a religious observance component, and equitable arrangements must be made for these pupils (my emphasis).
Stellenbosch Laerskool continues to ignore these regulations. Teachers still use class-time to teach Christianity and pray to a Christian creator-god.
At Louw Geldenhuys Laerskool in Linden, Johannesburg, similar contraventions take place. On its website, the principal, Mr. Arrie Genis, writes in a message to parents the following (http://www.llg.co.za/sake.html):
Mr Arrie Genis, principal of Laerskool Louw Geldenhuys, who ignores the National Policy on Religion in Education
“Deur middel van die onderwysproses leer die kind homself ken en ontdek hy talente wat hy in diens van sy Skepper en sy medemens kan aanwend.”
And: “Ons kinders is ons allerkosbaarste vreugde, deur God self aan ons toevertrou.” (my emphasis. One can ask: who is this Skepper – Creator – and God? The Christian God, Muslim God, or the God of any other religion? And how does the child distinguish between these gods?)
Genis recently openly and sarcastically rejected the complaints by parents against Christian religious instruction at the school: Genis used freedom of association as an excuse why he could flout the national religious instruction at school policy.
“Furthermore, I have news for you: all school ceremonies by the Laerskool Louw Geldenhuys are opened by teachers, ministers and even learners by means of ‘lay’ preachings, as approved by the parents and the school’s management body… I am definitely not ashamed of our (religious instruction policy) and will not change that.” (my emphasis: even children are used as religious propaganda- fodder. Again it reminds one of Nazi Germany where the youth were utilised to get the message of the Führer across).
Recently a group of parents at Baysville Spesiale Skool in East London complained to me as director of Sceptic South Africa that regular “altar calls” are held every Friday morning. It is virtually compulsory for children to attend these and Monday and Friday gatherings in the school hall where Christian evangelism is preached to them. Children refusing to attend, are naturally seen as outcasts and treated as such.
Every day the staff meeting is opened with Christian prayers, despite the fact that one of the teachers is a Hindu and some are atheists or secularly inclined.
Some teachers start their classes every day in one hall with a Christian religious ceremony and this leads to the children in their classes only starting with real school subjects at 08:45 or even nine ’o clock: nearly an hour after the school has officially opened.
Just one example of the outrageous things told to the children: “Isn’t it ‘strange’ that most tsunami’s and other natural disasters happen in those countries where ‘they still worship idols’? Well, there might have been a few believers that have perished too, but it’s O.K., because ‘then they’re with God’”.
Sceptic South Africa is considering laying criminal charges against these schools unless these policies are immediately halted and the schools adhere to the National Policy on Religion in Education. We are not living in Nazi Germany or the apartheid state anymore.