School in ‘race’ initiation row

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Education department officials have been ordered to re-investigate an alleged racist initiation incident at a KwaZulu-Natal school.

KZN education department head Nkosinathi Sishi has told Newcastle district officials to re-investigate the incident at Ferrum High School after he received “no satisfaction” from the preliminary report handed to him.

On Sunday, Sishi said if the investigation found that there was an element of racism, the department would hand the matter over to the Human Rights Commission for further investigation.

He is expecting another preliminary report by the end of this week.

“If the preliminary report has established the initiation of pupils at the school is a practice that has elements that are not acceptable, this could lead to a conclusion of racism, which is not acceptable. Therefore the department has ordered further investigation into the matter,” Sishi said.

The initial investigation followed an incident at the school two months ago when a pupil duped two new teammates into eating food that had allegedly been spat in during a netball team initiation ceremony which took place at the school.

Police are investigating a case of crimen injuria that was opened against a white Grade 11 pupil at the school, who is alleged to have spat into Purity baby food before it was eaten by two black Grade 12 pupils.

When the Daily News visited the school two months ago, pupils said the incident had racially polarised the school, with white pupils siding with the Grade 11 pupil and the black pupils siding with the two new netball players – aged 17 and 18.

Pupils also said every newcomer in the three sports played at the school – rugby, hockey and netball – had to be initiated.

In rugby, initiates have their hair shaved, new hockey teammates get their faces coloured with felttip pens and netball newcomers eat baby food.

Of the three new netball team players, only two were initiated as the third pupil, who is white, was not at school because she was ill.

The victims were alerted by another pupil that the baby food contained saliva.

Asked if the department would look into initiation practices in schools, Sishi said it had not reached a stage where a policy was required. “There has been very isolated incidents that have surfaced. It has never been discussed to such an extent to be looked into,” he said.

Khosi Mbuli, the mother of one of the victims, and a teacher at the school, said the girl accused of spitting in the baby food was suspended from the team, but was later re-instated. Her daughter was not selected for the team.

“I just want justice to take its course because even the school is pretending as if nothing happened. When the incident happened, my daughter was affected by it, but now she has healed,” Mbuli said.

Newcastle police spokesman Captain Shoes Magudulela said the investigation was complete and the docket was at court, awaiting the director of public prosecutions’ decision on the matter. - Daily news

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