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School oath: to pledge or not?

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School oath: to pledge or not?

by Tammy Petersen
04 Mar 2008
Peoples Post
Peoples Post

THE proposed national schools pledge, which may be introduced in March, is being questioned by local principals, who have expressed concerns about its doubt and content.

Education Minister Naledi Pandor publicised the oath on Tuesday. Learners may be expected to recite the pledge at the beginning of every school day.

The pledge reads, "We, the youth of South Africa, recognising the injustices of our past, honour those who suffered and sacrificed for justice and freedom. We will respect and protect the dignity of each person, and stand up for justice. We sincerely declare that we shall uphold the rights and values of our Constitution and promise to act in accordance with the duties and responsibilities that flow from these rights".

John Hamlett, principal of Bay Primary School, says he fails to see the need for and purpose of a pledge.

"I cannot support what I don't understand. I am not one for dwelling on the past. Yes, remember the past and those who suffered; bring it to the attention of those in our care if it has bearing on what is being taught or spoken about. But to teach a pledge to young children who have yet to understand the past, is questionable in my opinion."

He says it is disappointing the pledge was "pushed through by government" without discussion from those in the field. Mike Edwards, principal of Fish Hoek Senior High School, was one of the few local principals who had already examined the proposed pledge and says the concept is a "good idea" but the content needs work. "I have no problem with the idea. This is a good way to build loyalty and unity in a nation."

However, he says the words have not struck a cord in him.

"It should be reworded. Children should be given the opportunity to have input by coming up with ideas as well as suggestions. Thereafter the best one should be selected. The pledge is a good concept as it is one which is used across the world."

Muizenberg High School principal Dave Shaw admitted he had not seen the pledge, but after People's Post faxed him a copy, he says the pledge should serve a good purpose. "I agree that education should promote respect for each person and strive for justice. I believe good educators constantly try to instil God-given values and responsibility in the youth they interact with on a daily basis. A pledge recited by learners is, however, foreign to my experience as a principal and I question whether it will be effective."

He says that should the pledge be adopted, it should be "forward-looking", and the first paragraph should be erased as "it could be divisive".

"We have not had the opportunity to debate this pledge as a school yet and perhaps the nation should be afforded the opportunity to debate this policy properly before it becomes mandatory."

Kommetjie Primary School principal Bevil Velensky also admitted he had not yet studied the pledge, but after receiving a copy said it is an "excellent concept".

"This is the perfect opportunity to address unity in a country that is still divided. I support the concept purely because there is no better way of spreading patriotism than by means of children."

He says the opening paragraph might offend certain individuals "with a guilty conscience", but inevitably serves a greater good.

"It is important to be reminded of what happened in the past so history does not repeat itself."

But Greg Gordon, principal of St James Primary School, says he "does not like it at all".

"It is a blatant form of indoctrination.

"They expect children to uphold the Constitution, but right now we have to see it being respected by our politicians first.

"At this point I don't support it. It will still be discussed by our staff and governing body, but right now it does not have my support."

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