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Racism row at city school

Picture: Danie van der Lith

Parents call for action from the Education Department after alleged racist incident at Kimberley school.

THE PARENTS of a Grade 12 pupil at Northern Cape High School in Kimberley want the provincial Department of Education to take action against a pupil who allegedly called her daughter and fellow learners the K-word during class.

According to the pupil’s mother, her daughter informed her that a white male classmate called her and two other black pupils the K-word in the presence of a teacher.

“My daughter said the class was under way and they were discussing a school subject with the teacher. As they were busy interacting with the teacher, the white learner told them to keep quiet and called them the K-word,” said the mother.

“They were all shocked and another learner asked the teacher whether she would not address what the boy had said. The teacher then apparently told them that they should let it go as they will be finishing school in a couple of months anyway. The teacher did nothing about the matter and just brushed it off.”

The mother said that she had contacted the school to enquire about the incident and was told that the matter had been resolved.

“I called the school to ask whether they were aware of the incident. The lady in the administration office informed me that the matter had been resolved between the two learners. I was surprised as my daughter has not told me anything about being asked about the incident by the school.

“I asked the lady how the matter could be resolved when there were more than two learners involved and how come the parents or guardians were not informed about the resolution. The administration lady said they were busy arranging a memorial service for a staff member and they did not have the time to focus on the matter.

“After speaking to the administration lady I then decided to report the matter to the district office of the Department of Education as I realised that the school was not taking this matter seriously.”

She said the acting deputy principal made an appointment with her and her husband to discuss the matter.

“The acting deputy principal told us that the school is busy with an investigation. My daughter later that day told me that the school had taken statements from the involved learners. I had already reported the matter as I felt that the school was going to brush the matter under the carpet.”

She added that she was concerned that the teacher had allegedly not taken any action.

“What is shocking about this incident is that it occurred during class and in the presence of the teacher. The teacher heard and saw everything but failed to take action. How come this learner felt so comfortable and confident to call my child and the other learners the K-word in front of the teacher? The teacher saw nothing wrong with the actions of that learner who made the racist remark and instead said the children will finish school soon. That is worrying because these children will be entering their adult lives and they are still made to believe that someone degrading another person is acceptable. The learner who made the remark will continue to believe that he can call any black person the K-word because there will be no repercussions for his words.”

The mother added that her past was also part of the reason that she had decided to take action.

“This country has a very painful past and black people had to endure oppression. At that time we were not able to do anything about oppression because of the apartheid regime. I was also called the K-word back then, but was unable to do anything about that. I then decided to join the liberation struggle in order for my children not to experience the same discrimination and pain that I had endured. However, it seems like some people have not changed their views and beliefs about race,” she said.

The spokesperson of the Northern Cape Department of Education, Geoffrey van der Merwe, said they are investigating the alleged incident.

“The department is aware of the alleged racism incident that occurred at Northern Cape High School. The department launched an investigation and the disciplinary processes are well under way to finalise this unfortunate case,” said Van der Merwe.

“We have no place for racism in our schools and the appropriate action will be taken against those implicated in this regard. The department has taken a zero-tolerance stance on all matters relating to racism and tasked our district office to swiftly deal with this matter.”

This is not the first time the school has been embroiled in a racism scandal.

The late MEC for Education, Mac Jack, in 2019 established a team to investigate a case of alleged racism, where a white teacher allegedly racially attacked a 14-year-old pupil at the school.

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