South Africa: Parents Forced to Choose Between School and Religion

Religion or School

The parents of a first grade pupil in Pretoria, South Africa, were forced to remove their son from school after he missed a workday when students were made to attend a church conference. In August of this year, parents Tebogo and Flora Lekalakala sought permission from Cornerstone College for their seven-year-old son’s absence from school on the given date. When the school found that the Jehovah’s Witness convention could not be imposed on the child, the authorities decided to end their contract with his parents.

According to local Eyewitness News, a paper trail dating back to August details how Cornerstone College wrongfully terminated its contract with the Lekalakala parents this month. Reportedly, an appeal followed by a hearing found that the parents had in fact acted in an unlawful manner but the larger issue here remains unresolved. With less than seven weeks left for the completion of this academic year, the Lekalakala’s boy is yet to be admitted into another school and would likely miss an entire term.

The parents said that they are shocked at the way in which Cornerstone College suddenly decided to take such stern action against their son for having missed only one day of school.

“As a Christian school, I would have expected them to understand that it was just once that we asked for permission,” they said.

Cornerstone College on the other hand refused to term the boy’s removal as an expulsion, saying repeatedly that it tried in every way possible to convince the Lekalakalas not to take their son out of school at this point. The authorities said that they eventually backed off when the parents refused to abide by the recommended protocol and threatened to report the matter to the state’s Basic Education Department.

Obviously, the Lekalakalas feel discriminated against. Tebogo said that even though he is aware of Cornerstone College being an independent school with its own rules in place, the way in which the institution enforces its policy upon all students violates his own right to raise his child with religious freedom.

Apparently, the authorities told Tebogo that attending one church service was not enough reason for his son’s removal from school. They also implied that if the boy had to miss a workday, the parents ought to have lied about their son not feeling well rather than say the truth.

“The principal told me to rather go to a doctor and get a medical certificate and they might consider it. But I said it’s unethical especially as the child is not sick,” he said.

Photo Credits: Religious Darkness

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