Flemish school accused of 'apartheid' for splitting classes
A Flemish primary school head has separated native Dutch-speaking children from his overwhelmingly immigrant pupils, defending his decision against the charge of "apartheid."
Two out of 17 classes in the Onze-Lieve-Vrouw school in Lokeren, a Dutch-speaking part of northern Belgium, itself divided along linguistic lines, have been reserved for Flemish speakers, its head Luc Audenaert said.
Local Flemish television revealed the move, which Audenaert defended on the grounds that parents of Flemish children had asked that their children be grouped together. The school roll numbers some 70 percent of overseas origin.
Without action, Audenaert told local media, "there would only be two or three Flemish children in certain classes and we want to avoid that," warning that departures would only accelerate the school's "ghetto-isation."
Flemish education minister Pascal Smet has opened an enquiry but told Dutch-language newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws that it is "obvious that the children should be mixed, regardless of their origin."
The newspaper quoted one parent as saying "my daughter is in a multi-national class. How can she be expected to learn to speak good Dutch?"
Belgium, which is increasingly struggling to bridge the divide between its core Dutch-speaking and French-speaking parts, also has a large French-speaking Moroccan immigrant population.
© 2010 AFP