Tempers flared outside the school gates on Tuesday after a handful of EFF members arrived and were refused entry. But the pupils involved have said they do not want things to get out of hand.
Police were called to the school twice and several armed response security vehicles were parked nearby as the thwarted group, including pupils, gathered outside the locked gates.
They had demanded to speak directly to principal Kieran Stear about the alleged racism at the school.
At least five teachers at the school had been under investigation after a group of pupils accused them of racism.
Stear confirmed last week that she had received an antiracism petition, signed by 107 pupils, as well as first-hand accounts of alleged racist incidents at the school.
The reports were handed to the education department for further investigation.
Thembinkosi Mfama, the EFF political head of the Zola Nqini cluster in the Uitenhage area, said it had been asked by the aggrieved pupils to intervene in the matter.
Some of the pupils who had laid the complaints confirmed that they had asked the EFF to intervene.
However, the EFF’s efforts to meet Stear on Tuesday failed.
Their frustration increased when provincial education department representative Andile Hopa could also not convince management to open the gates.
Mfama told him: “Let us clarify you on a few things, Mr Hopa – one, we are not very pleased that we are speaking with you outside the premises of this school.
“You, as the superior of the principal inside – and the entire student governing body – you were supposed to be inside [the school] and summoning the principal to meet with us.
“We want to tell you, Mr Hopa – [and] we wanted to tell you inside the meeting so that all of the stakeholders could hear this point – we don’t have confidence in you that you’re going to resolve this matter.
“We are going to take up this matter as the EFF.
“This is not a threat, it’s a commitment that we’re making today.”
Mfama said the EFF would ensure that the school was no longer one that, according to him, “seeks to harbour racism”.
“It’s no longer going to be a school that seeks to dehumanise black people.
“And we’re going to champion that without the assistance of the department of education because we’ve done it before where we’ve not been assisted by government or any department.
“We’re not going to call you ever again. You will just hear from a phone call from the principal that the EFF is here to close the school.”
Mfama said the EFF’s approach was going to be “more radical and militant” next time.
He said the girls who had complained about racism had adopted a “soft” approach and “it landed on deaf ears”.
However, the pupils at the centre of the petition, who asked not to be named, said on Tuesday they did not want things to spiral out of control.
“I mean, we are still hurt by what the teachers said, obviously, but I don’t want things to get out of hand,” one said.
Another pupil said: “The school must address the situation in a fair and transparent way, that’s what we have asked for.
“We want public apologies from the teachers who called [us] ‘you people’ as if we are less than human.”
Hopa said the investigation was still ongoing.
Despite earlier assurances by a security officer that Stear would come out to address the EFF members and the pupils, the principal did not show up.
“We are not violent, we wanted to engage in a peaceful meeting, but she [Stear] beefed up security and police were called, so it shows us that whenever they see black people they see a threat,” EFF member Vusumzi Gqalane said.
“We are making a decision right now that we’re fed up with white supremacists and institutionalised racism.
“I can tell you right here and right now [that] we’re going to come back with the region of the EFF and close down this school.”
On Monday, Eastern Cape education spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima said the investigation had been concluded.
He said the investigation found that some statements made by teachers “were taken out of context completely”.
“In some cases, educators may have said something that could be considered to be less than sensitive.
“As a whole, no evidence of racism or malice could be found,” he said.
“Educators are often reminded to be careful with saying things that may be considered to be insensitive, even if it is said jokingly.”
He said the department was satisfied with the manner in which the principal and teachers had addressed the matter.
“Views and opinions were respected in the process, and all had been given an opportunity to respond to ensure fairness, including ensuring that all processes undertaken are just and promoting equality among those in each school community,” he said.
He said the department did not condone racism.
“We apologise to anyone who has suffered such tragedy in our department.
“We have zero tolerance on any form of racism.
“Any official or learner found guilty of doing such will be dealt with according to the law.”
However, Mtima backtracked completely on Tuesday, saying that the investigation was still ongoing.
“We are in the process of ascertaining how these incidents happened so that the implicated teachers could get training in social cohesion, how to treat children equally and for them to understand why racism is wrong.”
The reporters could also not access the school to speak to Stear and phone calls later in the day went answered.
By: Herald Live
This report does not necessarily reflects the opinion of SA-news.