THE fate of the Church's 918 mission schools and 121,020 native pupils in the Union of South Africa hangs in a perilous balance. The g9vernment has declared its intention of taking control of them under the provisions of the new Bantu Act by the simple expedient of withdrawing from them all the state subsidies on which they have hitherto relied for support.
Schools of other denominations will he dealt with in the same way.
The Hierarchy has so far issued no statement, but negotiations are said to be under way between the Bishops and the Minister of Native Affairs, Dr. H. F. Vcrwoerd.
Outlining the government's policy, Dr, Verwoerd has stated bluntly that there will no longer be a system of mission schools at all; they will all come under his department. Any Church would be free to maintain schools entirely at its own expense, train its own teachers or employ teachers trained by the state. So far as possible, the Churches will he indemnified for any financial loss resulting from the transfer of the mission schools to state control.
Mission-school education for Africans, he contended. had been aimed at "turning out pupils in the European mould," and the new law was intended not to equip the native for a position in the white community, but to build up the Bantu community as such.
Religious education in Bantu schools. he said. must be confined to general Bible knowledge and to broad Christian religion, but will take an important place in the curriculum. No individual Church wilt he permitted to acquire a monopoly. but each one will he permitted to attend to the teaching of religion to children of its • own denomination at set times.
There is one important condition. Such teaching must be in the mother tongue of the pupils.