SAHRC finds against Wilgehof Primary teacher for crude racist remarks, orders probe into racism in the Free State public schools
04 October 2013
Attention: Editors and Reporters
The South African Human Rights Commission (Commission) has found that the conduct of Wilgehof Primary School teacher, Mr Lenard Mac Kay and his crude racist remarks perpetrated against black learners amount to racism and hate speech as defined in the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (PEPUDA).
The finding follows a complaint that was lodged by Mr Craig Thiem, a parent who alleged that his two minor children who attend Wilgehof Primary School in Bloemfontein had repeatedly complained to him about Mr Mac Kay’s racist attitude towards black learners.
Furthermore, in the complaint it was stated that Mr Mc Kay displayed a full sized Apartheid Flag in front of his classroom since May 2012, and had a poster in the class that depicted black people as having monkey-like noises and primate brains who could only make confusing noise.
The complainant also alleged that the teacher often refers to black children using the ‘K’-word in front of others in class. In addition the teacher walked around the class room with a mirror which he will put in front of a black child’s face and asked “what do you see?” When the black child said, “I do not know, sir,” the teacher would respond by saying “a baboon... you see a baboon!”
The school is attended by predominantly black learners and run by a majority of white teachers.
Mr Thiem further furnished the Commission with evidence of intimidation by the School Principal and his close associates to withdraw the complaint lodged with the Commission. His child was also assaulted by Mr Mac Kay and laid a criminal complaint with the SAPS.
During the investigation by the Commission, 81% of the children attending Wilgehof Primary School reported that when they experience bullying and racism at school, they reported this to their parents instead of teachers because their teachers did not see racism as an important issue.
Also, the questionnaires sent by the Commission to teachers about racism at the school were only filled by the six black teachers who confirmed that racism does occur frequently at the school. The 26 white teachers elected not to complete the questionnaire. The Commission views this as further credence to allegations of structural and institutional racism made by black teachers at the school.
Majority of learners confirmed that allegations of name-calling, bullying, demeaning remarks, racial utterances and racial discrimination were indeed correct. The old South African Flag had been in the class for more than a year. Pupils also said that Mr Mac Kay also used abusive language towards them and on occasion, administered corporal punishment.
On the basis of evidence gleaned from the investigation and analysis conducted, the Commission found that:
- Mr Mac Kay’s act of hate speech constitute clear violation of both right to equality and right human dignity of the learners;
- Mr Mac Kay’s conduct of administering corporal punishment is clear violation of the South African Schools Act, constitutes a violation of the right of the learners to be treated or punished in a cruel, inhuman or degrading way as stated in section 12 of the Constitution.
- Mr Mac Kay’s conduct of exposing learners to a learning environment that was harmful such as corporal punishment and harmful behaviours including display of racist imagery and the old South African flag is a violation of both the right to education and the rights of the child. Such display therefore exceeds the limits of rightful free expression and borders on racism.
- Mr Mac Kay should be subjected to a disciplinary process in terms of the Employment of Educators Act 76 of 1998
- The South African Council of Educators is urged to consider approaching the court to declare Mr Mac Kay in terms of the National Child Protection register as a person not suitable to work with children, in terms of the Children’s Act, 38 of 2005.
- The Free State Provincial Department of Education to assess the prevalence of racism in public schools in the province. The Department is required to furnish the Commission with a report within a period of twelve months on the outcomes of this assessment.
- The Provincial Department is required to ensure that education in all public schools is provided in a way that is consistent with human rights, including equal respect for every child, and free from all forms of violence.
- In addition, the department is urged to develop proven interventions to foster a rights-based approach to education environment in all public schools in the Province.
- The Provincial Department should probe the conduct of the School Principal and review his competence to lead the school and other allegations of impropriety and misappropriation of school funds;
- The School Governing Body is ordered to provide the Commission with a policy on dealing with racism within twelve months of this finding.
The Respondents have a right to appeal against the findings within 45 days.
The Commission will continue use its constitutional mandate to make sure that children are protected from all form of violation of their rights.
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Issued by the South African Human Rights Commission
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