All colours at 'Indian' schools

It's rugby with samoosas as white school kids ignore outdated boundaries

28 January 2018 - 00:02 By PREGA GOVENDER

Brothers Cheyne and Connor Chisholm and their friend, Steven Benade, put Drakensberg Secondary School on the map when they introduced rugby to the former Indian school for the first time last year.
The school in Estcourt in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, as well as several other former Indian-only schools across the province, has been attracting dozens of white pupils, including Afrikaans-speaking children.
White parents battling to pay high fees at former Model C and private schools said they chose these schools because of the high-quality education and low fees.Unlike most former Model C schools where fees range from R30,000 upwards, the annual school fee at Drakensberg Secondary this year is R1,750.
Nine of the 1,181 pupils at Drakensberg Secondary are white. At least three of the nine pupils, who are from one family, live in Winterton, about 47km away. There are also 40 coloured, 410 Indian and 722 black African pupils at the school.
There are more white pupils at the town's "Indian" school than there are at the former Model C school, Estcourt High.
Several other former Indian schools in KwaZulu-Natal have white pupils, including Forderville Primary in Estcourt (two); Woodlands Secondary in Maritzburg (three); Raisethorpe Secondary in Maritzburg (one); Verulam Secondary on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast (a set of twins); Seatides Combined on the North Coast (10); Glenhills Secondary in KwaDukuza (five); and Stanger Manor Secondary (five).
But it's not just KwaZulu-Natal schools that are embracing diversity.
Gauteng education department spokesman Steve Mabona said 478 white pupils were enrolled at former African, coloured and Indian schools in the province in 2016.
Eastern Cape education department spokesman Mali Mtima said white pupils were attending former African schools in Graaff-Reinet, Bizana, Kareedouw and the Sarah Baartman district, where they were learning indigenous languages.
Limpopo said there were no white pupils at traditionally black schools in the province, while other provinces did not respond to queries.White Drakensberg Secondary pupil Lara-Eve Csabai, 18, who is in a Grade 12 class of 38 pupils, said the standard of education at the school was "very high".
"It is also cheaper than Ladysmith High [a former white school]. The pass rates are high and the teachers are really, really hardworking. I also have a lot of Indian and black friends."
Her mother, Rebecca Csabai, said her white friends initially had "question marks on their faces" when they heard she was sending her children to a former Indian school.
"It is one of the best schools in the area. It's not just the quality of education. They [my children] are very content with the people around them as well."
Grade 12 pupil Amy Chisholm, 18, said the white pupils at her former school in Harrismith in the Free State were "stuck up" compared to pupils at Drakensberg Secondary.
"They [Indian, African and coloured pupils] are very friendly and they're always sharing their lunch with you. I love samoosas and Indian curry."
Headmaster Sundeep Sewlal said he even had white parents from Johannesburg inquiring about whether the school had boarding facilities.
He said Cheyne and Connor Chisholm had, through their own initiative, secured the services of a rugby coach last year to train pupils.
"We are trying to get sponsors to take rugby to a higher level."
Sewlal's school has a coloured head of department, 13 black African teachers and 25 Indian teachers.
Stanger Manor Secondary principal Mervyn Gounden said the school was "proudly South African".
One of his pupils, Suanne Rootman, who is Afrikaans speaking, achieved distinctions in five subjects in matric last year, including English home language.
The principal of Raisethorpe Secondary in Maritzburg, Indran Pillay, who also has three Chinese pupils at his school, said he was "chuffed" that the school was being recognised for its excellence by all race groups.
"People are starting to recognise that it's the school and not the demographic profile of a school that's important."
Jaco Deacon, deputy CEO of the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools, said: "If you have a learning culture and work ethic in your school, you will attract learners whether you are known as a former coloured, Indian or black school."
KwaZulu-Natal education department spokesman Muzi Mahlambi said white people living in RDP houses were sending their children to the nearest school instead of commuting to former Model C schools.
"There are a few white learners attending township schools."
A spokesman for the Department of Basic Education, Troy Martens, said the government saw children as pupils and "not as a black learner or white learner".
"We don't have Indian schools or white schools."
NEW BALL GAME IN ESTCOURT
With the arrival of white pupils at former all-Indian schools has come an upsurge in enthusiasm for rugby, says Sundeep Sewlal, headmaster of Drakensberg Secondary School in Estcourt. The school is trying to get sponsors to boost the sport after pupils Cheyne and Connor Chisholm, through their own initiative, secured the services of a rugby coach last year
govenderp@sundaytimes.co.za

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