Despite the growing anger and outrage after more than 20 former Model C schools in Cape Town were implicated in claimed racism and discrimination by pupils, the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) says there has been a decrease in the number of incidents of prejudice reported to it recently, and progress toward embracing diversity was being made.
Past and present pupils from various Cape high schools opened up about discrimination experienced at the hands of staff and fellow pupils, with learners protesting at Bishops Diocesan College on Friday, demanding, through a memorandum, an end to claimed racism and homophobia there.
They hoisted a rainbow Pride flag alongside a #BlackLivesMatter flag.
Since then, pupils from other schools have taken to social media to share their experiences at schools, including Herschel Girls School, Rondebosch Boys’ High, Westerford High, Springfield Convent Senior, Rustenburg Girls’ High, various Waldorf schools, St Cyprian’s, SACS, Wynberg Girls’ High, Pinelands High, The Settlers High, Edgemead High, Cedar House, Rhenish Girls’ High, Paarl Gymnasium, and Reddam House.
Some of the schools had posted about their support for the global Black Lives Matter movement, eliciting critical comments from pupils.
“It’s like casual racism is a part of Bishop’s conversation,” a pupil said, while another said a learner who made racial slurs on a camp was punished by being made to skip a class and clean a braai stand.
A Wynberg Girls pupil wrote that she was told by a teacher that because she was coloured, she should know Afrikaans.
However, spokesperson for Education MEC Debbie Schäfer, Kerry Mauchline said: “We have noted a decrease in the number of incidents reported to us in this recent period, and believe that progress is being made generally in this regard, and note that many of the posts on the Instagram page are from past learners.
“We urge all of our learners to formally report any incidents of this nature, as it is difficult to act on anonymous social media claims. We will address any incidents.”
Over the past two years, the WCED had worked with schools to amend their codes of conduct to be more inclusive of all learners, and developed a guideline on gender identity and sexual orientation in public schools, she said.
Outgoing Bishops principal Guy Pearson said during Friday’s protest that boys who were not at school were encouraged to log out of their online lesson in support of it.
“This will be an ideal opportunity to continue the engagement with all members of our community regarding these issues in our school. We are committed to making Bishops a welcoming environment for all who learn and work here, irrespective of their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.”
Herschel Girls School invited ex-pupils to communicate with it on a strategy for change. “We express sadness that this is the way the students have felt at the school.
“We know that you have shown courage in expressing your pain, anger, and hurt. We have a clear strategy to work towards a school where a sense of belonging is real.”
Rustenburg Girls’ High School said racism still existed within the school and that many past and present pupils had been affected by it.
“We realise that there is much change that still needs to take place and that it may feel too slow, too little or too late. We remain committed to our transformation journey and welcome all input.”
Wynberg Girls’ High School’s Jennifer Wallace said: “We welcome and support these conversations; they are essential if we are to transform our society. It is important that we reflect on experiences that may be years old, or more recent.”