24 years on, it's finally voetsak to Verwoerd

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24 years on, it's finally voetsak to Verwoerd

Parents of pupils attending Hoërskool Hendrik Verwoerd will vote for a new name

Prega Govender

Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi’s dogged determination to force schools named after apartheid heroes to change their names is paying off – Hoërskool Hendrik Verwoerd  in Pretoria is being renamed.
Parents of pupils attending the 80-year-old school named after Hendrik Verwoerd, who was infamously dubbed the architect of apartheid, will vote for a new name during a special annual general meeting next week.
Three names proposed by current and former pupils, teachers, parents and community members during a meeting last month were selected.
Several schools around the country are still named after apartheid-era leaders. Among these are Hoërskool John Vorster and Hoërskool JG Strijdom in Gauteng; Hoërskool DF Malan and PW Botha Kollege in the Western Cape; and Louis Botha Technical High School and JBM Hertzog High in the Free State.Olga Veldsman, chairperson of the governing body of Hoërskool Hendrik Verwoerd, said in a statement that as far back as July 2016 the school had submitted “a declaration of intent” to change its name to the provincial education department.
The department acknowledged the school’s request to change its name in February last year.
She said that the process inviting those with a vested interest in the school to submit names started on February 19 this year and closed on March 19.
Veldsman said that a special annual general meeting of parents that was scheduled for last month to vote for one of the three names could not go ahead as the number of people attending fell short of a quorum.
“Once voting is finalised on May 17, the names voted for will be submitted to the department for approval. The importance of this transformation for our school, our children and the community as a whole cannot be stressed enough,” she said.
Lesufi gave Gauteng schools an ultimatum until September 2016 to change offensive or derogatory names.
He said in January: “Are you comfortable having your child attend a school called Hendrik Verwoerd? I’m not. We have given schools the right to recommend to us if they want to change their names. Some have done; others are rigid.”Gauteng education department spokesperson Steve Mabona confirmed on Thursday that Hoërskool Hendrik Verwoerd had applied to the department to change its name.
“We are delighted that Hendrik Verwoerd High decided to change its name. Schools named after apartheid leaders should undergo the name change process in an open and consultative process. This will be an ongoing process until all implicated schools effectively change their names.”
Hendrik Verwoerd’s application was still being processed and the department will publish the proposed name change for public comment.
“The proposed name will be divulged with the request for public comment.”Mabona said the department had conducted an audit of school names and found that some institutions were named after Bantustan leaders and education officials who worked during the apartheid era.
Meanwhile, Western Cape education MEC Debbie Schafer’s spokesperson, Jessica Shelver, said that it was entirely the governing body’s prerogative to change the name of a school.
“It is the school governing body’s decision, not the department’s. Obviously it is dependent on the school as to whether they want to change it. The whole process is entirely voluntary.”
She said that as far back as 2015 Schafer announced in her budget speech that schools that felt their name was still representative of apartheid South Africa should apply to her department for it to be changed.
The Free State education department did not respond to questions that were e-mailed on Tuesday.

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