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SAHRC finds against staff at Free State School over racism claims

MEDIA STATEMENT

23 July 2014

ATTENTION: Editors and Reporters

The South African Human Rights Commission is calling on the Free State Education Department to develop procedures for monitoring and reporting on initiatives to counter racism in public schools in the province.
This comes after a finding made by the Commission against the Principal and staff at Dr Viljoen Combined School in a racism case.

The Commission launched an investigation in May 2013 following allegations that learners at the school were exposed to dehumanising and racist treatment meted out to them by the school’s staff, including the principal.
The learners at the school alleged that the school’s staff called them by racist, derogatory, and belittling names like “kaffirs, baboons, monkeys, and little black bitches”.
They further alleged that one of the teachers habitually tells them that “after seeing their ugly faces, he adores his dog even more because it is more beautiful than them”.
Learners also said teachers told them to go back to the black schools in the townships because their parents cannot afford to pay school fees, and they will never succeed in life and will end up like their parents who work in chain stores.

Following months of investigation’s, the Commission found that the racist remarks made by the staff members of the Dr Viljoen Combined School against black and coloured learners constitute a clear incident of hate speech as defined by the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (PEPUDA), and that this act of hate speech constitutes a clear violation of both the right to equality and human dignity of the learners.
The school also failed to create a conducive learning environment free from harmful elements such as racist utterances and demeaning remarks, and this constitutes a clear violation of both the right to education and children’s right.

Recommendations
The Commission recommends that:
•    The school and the Chairperson of the school should establish policies and guidelines which clearly articulate principles and procedures to counter racism, including clear procedures for the resolution of complaints of racism at the school within a period of twelve (12) months of the date of this finding.
A copy of the policy and guidelines should be submitted to the Commission for review.
•    The school in collaboration with the Free State Provincial Department of Education should provide curriculum and resources which challenge racist attitudes and behaviours and increase teachers and learners’ understanding of racism.
•    The school Principal is urged to create an inclusive learning environment and ensure that all members of the staff understand their rights and responsibilities in relation to racist behaviour.
•    The Free State Provincial Department of Education develop system-wide procedures for monitoring and reporting on initiatives to counter racism in public schools within a period of eighteen (18) months of the date of this finding; and
•    The Free State Provincial Department of Education should provide training programs to the school staff in valuing diversity, cross-cultural understanding and strategies to counter racism within a period of six (6) months of the date of this finding. The Department should further monitor the participation of staff in training programs designed to counter racism and provide the Commission with a report.
ENDS

Issued by the SA Human Rights Commission
Isaac Mangena
Spokesperson
071 884 8273

For comments email info@sahrc.org.za [Back]



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