Why Are Belgian School Children Punished For Speaking French?

Children given detention for speaking French in school on Flemish-speaking side of Belgium town

Children are being given detention for speaking French in the playground at a school in the Flemish-speaking part of Belgium.

Pupils as young as seven are taken aside for an hour and given a compulsory Flemish language lesson if they are heard uttering banned French words during break time.

Parents have reacted in fury to the new rule imposed by head teacher Veronique Vanhercke at the Saint-Pierre de Jette primary school near Brussels.

Controversial: Children are being given detention for speaking French in the playground at Saint-Pierre de Jette school in Belgium (pictured)

The school is on the boundary of a Flemish-speaking district and the French-speaking Belgian capital, where many of the children live.

One parent told Belgium’s VTM television news: ‘It is an outrage to bring children into the argument over the linguistic divisions in this country.

‘They speak French at home and at evenings and weekends with their friends.

‘But now they are being ordered to play with the same friends in a foreign language during school time.’

Headteacher Mrs Vanhercke insisted it was important for all children to speak both Belgium’s languages.

She told VTM news: ‘We do not see detention and a Flemish lesson as a punishment, more a way of encouraging children to learn to speak Flemish.’

Feuding between French and Flemish speakers in Belgium threatened to break the country apart last year when rival political factions were unable to form a government for almost 18 months.

Many Flemish nationalists are in favour of independence from the poorer French-speaking region of Wallonia in the south, which they claim they are supporting financially.

Belgium’s Flemish-speaking former education minister Pascal Smet sparked outrage two years ago by suggesting English should replace French as the second language taught to pupils in Flanders.

French-language newspaper Le Soir wrote at the time: ‘This is astonishingly arrogant. French speakers love their language and take great pride in it. They do not want everyone speaking either only Flemish or English.’

Taken from The Daily Mail: 15.02.12