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Transforming Society

Securing Rights

Restoring Dignity

German school in racism row

12 February 2017

A mother has been forced to pull her daughter out of the Deutsche Internationale Schule in Pretoria following allegations of racist insults directed at the girl.

The Gauteng education department has launched a preliminary investigation into the incident after the child was allegedly called a “black b**ch” by a schoolmate.
The mother, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the girl, told City Press this week that a family psychologist indicated that her daughter was too depressed to return to the school, which is also referred to as the German International School.

“The psychologist spoke to us after the sessions she had with my daughter and it was not good. But maybe it will help those who do not have a voice,” the mother said, adding that she had laid a complaint with the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).

Her daughter, who was sitting with her coloured friends on a bench during lunch break on February 3, were approached by four boys.

“They were approached by German scholars and told that they should get off the bench as [one claimed] he had bought the bench. At first, they thought was that it was a joke, but he repeatedly said my daughter [and others] were black b**ches and they should get off the bench,” the mother said.

She said the incident was then reported to the school management.

In her submission to the SAHRC, the mother said the other parents whose children were insulted could not complain because the German government paid their school fees.

“Unfortunately, I cannot speak for the other girls and their parents as they are not allowed to complain. They will tell you that they are not allowed to complain because the German government pays their fees. So it is okay to discriminate against people who are subsidised by the German government,” she told the SAHRC.

She said similar racist incidents were reported to the Gauteng education department in the past, but these were not investigated because a senior school board member told parents at an annual general council meeting in March last year that “the school has partners in the department of education that helps the German school get rid [of] complaints”.

She continued: “He also said if parents were not happy with how they do things at the German school, they must take their kids and leave. On that note, the German community is protected as well. My 12-year-old daughter has done nothing wrong. She was just sitting on the bench with her friends and was just discriminated against as a coloured. This racist behaviour is definitely not acceptable, nor is the ignorance of the German school board.”

A letter that her daughter wrote to the school management was even more damning. The girl claimed that one of the four boys started to be silly. When one of the girls responded that the bench was for everyone, the boy responded: “Ja, black people these days ... black people are b**ches.”

School board chair Wolfgang Selzer said the matter has been escalated to him as part of the standard procedure.

“As chair of the board, I would like to reassure you that the Deutsche Internationale Schule Pretoria does not tolerate any form of racism, and that the standard procedure in place to deal with such a matter has been initiated and is currently in progress. On completion of the process, we will be able to issue a statement in this regard.”

German embassy spokesperson Rainer Breul said the embassy took the allegations “very seriously”. He said the school was currently dealing with the matter.

“The embassy will not comment at this stage, but our plea is for the parties to sit together and find a solution,” he said.

Gauteng education department acting spokesperson Oupa Bodibe said the department had no record of the allegations levelled against the school.

“However, we request the parents or anyone with tangible evidence of those allegations to come forward and report the matter to the district office. We have requested the district office to start a preliminary investigation into the matter,” Bodibe said.

SAHRC spokesperson Gushwell Brooks confirmed that a complaint was laid on February 3. He said the SAHRC had requested more information from the complainant.

Brooks said the SAHRC had dealt with similar cases where acts of hate speech and an infringement of equality in terms of race had occurred in schools. However, these cases were complaints against a teacher by a pupil.

He cited a similar case in 2013, when two pupils at Wilgehof Primary School in Bloemfontein complained that they had repeatedly been exposed to racial abuse by teachers.

“The children further reported that one male teacher in particular had displayed a full-sized old South African flag at the front of his classroom, and had a poster on the classroom wall that depicted black people as having monkey-like primitive brains who can only make confusing noises. The commission found that the rights of the pupils had been infringed upon and recommended that the teacher undergo a disciplinary process. The Free State department of basic education was urged to consider approaching the court to declare the teacher – in terms of part B of the National Child Protection Register and in accordance with the Children’s Act of 2005 – as a person unsuitable to work with children; or alternatively undergo an intensive race sensitisation, tolerance and anger management programme,” Brooks said.

Source: City Press

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