THE Bhisho administration is in the process of pushing through legislation that will allow parents to challenge former Model C schools to accept indigenous languages as part of the school curriculum.
A white paper is being drafted to formulate a bill to be sent out for public comment.
If passed, the bill will become the Language Act, meaning that former Model C schools will have to accept languages such as Xhosa or any other indigenous language as a subject if a parent takes school governing bodies (SGBs) to court.
The provincial government plans to have the bill ready by the end of the current financial year.
This was revealed by a senior official in the Department of Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture (DSRC).
Government authorities said at the Eastern Cape Education Department's language and mathematics indaba last Thursday that some former Model C schools were resistant to allowing Xhosa as a first additional language.
Education MEC Mandla Makupula also said senior officials in his department feared to intervene in language policy matters at former Model C schools.
He questioned whether former Model C schools were adhering to rules set out by his department when electing SGBs.
DSRC assistant manager in the language section Mcoseleli Dukisa said: "The Language Act is being formed and a white paper is planned to be in place at least by the end of the year and then a bill can be sent out for public comment."
Dukisa said that after the bill had been passed, then the provincial act would make it possible for parents or any other individual to challenge those who resisted accepting their language.
He said those resisting compliance with the act would be prosecuted.
"The white paper will detail statistics and languages that we have in the province ... to enforce and make those languages official."
The move follows the case of Ayanda Duma, a mother of two, who took the Gonubie Primary School to court over the language policy dispute.
She went to court to force the school to make Xhosa a first additional language.
"As for now that matter can be resolved through deliberations between parties but there is no legislation that the parent can use to enforce the use of isiXhosa," Dukisa said.
Pan South African Language Board provincial senior language practitioner Lukhanyo Sigonyela confirmed that the province was among those lagging behind in forming the legislation with only the Western Cape having passed the act in the country.
Sigonyela said at the moment parents were being forced by principals, even at rural schools, to accept English as the home language or language of instruction.
"Principals, who are middle class and have their children studying at former Model C schools, are elevating the use of English at rural schools to the detriment of children. Even in areas like Peddie, you will find that a school's language policy is English.
"This is bad. The middle class continue to violate the rights of children," Sigonyela said. "Even principals determine the language policy of a school, not SGBs. In fact, some of the parents don't know what the SGB is supposed to do.
"On the other hand, officials of the department are scared of former Model C schools and are reluctant to intervene in language policy disputes."
The Education Department's language policy manager, Naledi Mbudeshale, said the act had nothing to do with the department.
"Sasa [the South African Schools' Act] says schools may determine the language policy after it has been discussed by parents in a meeting meant specifically for language policy. If a parent is not happy, he or she can appeal to the department. But, in some instances SGBs don't consult openly with parents and a flawed language policy gets implemented without parents knowing the implications, especially in the newly introduced curriculum assessment policy."
Mbudeshale said parents had the right to determine languages to be used to teach their children.