Alarm over ban on French in schoolyard

1st September 2006, Comments 0 comments

1 September 2006, BRUSSELS — The decision by Merchtem to only allow Dutch to be spoken in school playgrounds has sparked an angry response from Francophone Belgium.

1 September 2006

BRUSSELS — The decision by Merchtem to only allow Dutch to be spoken in school playgrounds has sparked an angry response from Francophone Belgium.

Newspaper 'Le Soir' ran a front page headline on Thursday saying: "Is Flanders afraid of French?"

The next two pages were entirely devoted to reports about the decision by the Merchtem City Council to ban French from the schoolyard and parent-teacher nights in public schools.

The Brussels newspaper said "our language is considered a threat" and linked the decision to a recent comment from Flemish Premier Yves Leterme, who said French-speakers were intellectually incapable of learning Dutch.

The newspaper's editorial said French-speakers are criticised for not speaking Dutch well enough and then stigmatised when they do try and learn it, newspaper 'De Standaard' reported on Friday.

But the Merchtem decision attracted less attention in the other Francophone newspapers.  'La Dernière Heure' dedicated one article to the issue, while 'La Libre Belgique' restricted its report to just five lines.

And Merchtem Mayor Eddie de Block has defended the ban, claiming it would help all non-Dutch speakers integrate in the Flemish town.

He insisted it did not violate human rights and said only 8 percent of some 1,400 pupils in the town's four schools spoke languages other than Dutch, BBC reported.

Merchtem is about 15km north-west of mostly French-speaking, but officially bilingual, Brussels.

An increasing number of non-Dutch speaking families have been settling in the town because of its proximity to the capital.

[Copyright Expatica News 2006]

Subject: Belgian news

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