In the wake of increased racist rhetoric appearing on social media platforms in South Africa, the recent surfacing of a Whatsapp voice note has called into question the role of schools in quelling racist comments and/or actions. In the voice note, with the piano in the background, one of the boys is heard poetically saying “I feel pain unearthly because I hate Ks.” After which, another boy says “I am not actually a racist guys, [laughs] I never say that ‘k’ word, it’s just so mean.” The matter has since been brought to the attention of the school and the Western Cape Education Department (WCED).
The voice note, which was shared in a Rondebosch Boys’ High Grade 11 WhatsApp group, was subsequently brought to the attention of the Principal, Shaun Simpson, by a learner.
According to Simpson, the learners are members of a band and had described the song as “dark humour”.
Following the surfacing of the video, the school approached the Department of Education, as well as the chairman of the schools board of directors, thereafter it informed the parents of the boys that a disciplinary hearing would be held.
Speaking to VOC’s Breakfast Beat, director of Communication for the WCED, Paddy Attwell, confirms that while more details is required on the incident, the school did bring the matter to the department’s attention as soon as the message surfaced.
He said that following discussions between the principal of the school and the parents of the three boys concerned, the school has scheduled a disciplinary hearing for Tuesday.
Two of the boys have since withdrawn from the school, while the third’s parents indicated that he should attend the disciplinary process.
“Certainly the school is dealing with it very firmly, which we welcome. It has a very strong code of conduct that regards racist comments or actions as serious misconduct. So now we have to wait upon the disciplinary proceedings to see the outcome,” he stated.
Attwell adds that the department hesitates to speculate about the outcome of the disciplinary hearing, but affirms that the department views the allegations as serious.
According to the department, while there exists national guidelines for disciplinary measures, which the department provides training on, every school has its own code of conduct that it adheres to.
“But of course there is a much deeper and significant way of dealing with it and that is to see how we can change attitudes, since schools have an incredibly important role to play in transforming society,” he noted.
Given the fact that schools are increasingly reflecting the diversity of the country, Atwell asserts that South Africans need to celebrate their diversity and work toward encouraging engagement across communities.
The department’s district offices currently provide training and support on diversity along with programmes in which learners are provided with extracurricular activity on youth development and diversity.
“Diversity is an important theme in our life orientation curriculum. We just have to make sure it’s taught correctly and provide all the support in that regards.”
While South Africa’s democracy has been instituted for over 20-years, Atwell asserts that the constitutional values are broadly included in the curriculum.
“We have a beautiful country, with rich diversity and we have to built on it and celebrate it. So we need to listen to each other more,” Atwell continued.
If parents are alerted to incidents of racism on a school level, they are encouraged to contact the departments Safe Schools centre on: 0800 45 46 47.