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Transforming Society

Securing Rights

Restoring Dignity

Speak out on school racism, urges Human Rights Commission

13 June 2020

Cape Town – The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has called for current and former pupils to speak out about their experiences of racism at school.
Hundreds of young South Africans have since last week used social media to document their accounts of racism while attending private and former Model C schools in the country.

“It’s quite overwhelming and very concerning, and indicative of the fact that there is still a lot of unfair discrimination out there,” said Andre Gaum, SAHRC commissioner responsible for basic education.
“We will definitely consider doing an own-initiative investigation, but we also want to actually request people to lay complaints with us.
“That would make it easier for us to pinpoint the facts and take the best possible decision as to the way forward.”

He said new textbooks have been written to encourage a “human rights ethos” in schools, and should be phased into the curriculum soon.
“We believe that the school environment is such a critical environment to create the atmosphere for a culture of human rights to be developed. That’s really the engine room of building this nation,” Gaum added.
The Western Cape Education Department has also asked those pupils who’ve felt racially abused to come forward.

Kerry Mauchline, spokesperson for Education MEC Debbie Schäfer, said there had been fewer reports of racial incidents in provincial schools.
“We have noted a decrease in the number of incidents reported to us in this recent period. We urge all of our pupils to report any incidents of this nature, as it is difficult to act on anonymous social media claims,” Mauchline said.
The school currently in the spotlight has been Herschel Girls’ after several former pupils of colour took umbrage with their alma mater on Instagram, following the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Principal Heather Goedeke has since issued an apology via social media, and has committed to address the accounts of former pupils.
“We are profoundly and unreservedly sorry for the racist and discriminatory experiences endured, the resultant embarrassment and pain, the lasting hurt and ongoing trauma,” a statement read.
“These experiences should never have occurred, and we take collective responsibility.”
The school has asked Lovelyn Nwadeyi, an activist and social justice consultant, to assist.
Nwadeyi used an open letter to address the accounts she saw posted on the @yousilenceweamplify Instagram account.
“I was not shocked by 257 stories of racism by children and adults who have attended the so-called top schools in our country. I was not shocked because these stories reflect and mirror some of the experiences that myself and other friends who went to ex-Model C schools also had when we were in school,” Nwadeyi wrote.
“It is for this reason that I started my work as a social justice consultant I do not want and do not believe that children should be fighting these kinds of battles.”

Source: Weekend Argus

The South African Human Rights Commission.

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The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

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