Johannesburg - The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation on Wednesday expressed concern over allegations of racism at the National School of the Arts in Braamfontein in Johannesburg.
This article has been updated.
“Schools are supposed to be at the centre of transformation, because they have the potential to inculcate the principles of non-racialism and equality within children,” foundation director Neeshan Balton said in a statement.
To prevent future racial incidents, teachers should be trained on issues of race and transformation, he said.
The Star reported on Tuesday that a grade eight history teacher allegedly called black people “demons” and told her class that the reason government was failing was because it was led by black people.
Balton said the fact that the teacher taught history made the incident more concerning.
“History, and the understanding and teaching thereof, is a key component of interpreting our past and the current processes of change,” he said.
“If a history teacher - who one would assume has sufficient knowledge of the horrors of racism and apartheid - makes such comments, then we should be gravely concerned.”
While political commentary and critical reflection were acceptable in academic institutions, these had to be based on rational and intellectual foundations.
Balton commended a pupil at the school who reported the alleged racism to her mother.
The newspaper reported that a 13-year-old girl sent an SMS to her mother saying the teacher was out of order for telling the class black people were stupid for voting for the ANC and that in the Western Cape people were “more than happy” with the DA, “thanks to white people”.
“This is the type of courage that is needed to combat the scourge of racism in our society,” Balton said.
“Young people should not accept it if a teacher expresses discriminatory views in a classroom. It should not be tolerated.”
He urged the education department and the school governing body to take a strong stance against the teacher, if she was found guilty of racism.
The Gauteng education department said the alleged incident was being investigated, while the school said its governing body would make a statement in due course.
The DA in Gauteng on Tuesday called on the SA Human Rights Commission to investigate claims of racism at the school.
“The DA in Gauteng has written to the Human Rights Commission to investigate the allegation of a racist teacher,” party MPL Khume Ramulifho said in a statement.
The Star apologises to the National School of Arts (NSA) for causing it unnecessary harm by falsely and unfairly implying that it may have been supportive of possible racist behaviour by one of its teachers in the classroom.
The school had complained to the press ombud about a front page lead, published on 3 June 2014, headlined ‘Racist’ teacher outrage – Pupils upset at the denigration of blacks; about an online article (School backs ‘racist’ teacher); and about a street poster (‘Racist’ teacher uproar).
The stories were about a Grade 8 history teacher at the NSA who reportedly was “in trouble” with the Gauteng Department of Basic Education for allegedly using racial slurs in class.
Ombud Johan Retief found that the subhead of the lead story, the headline on the second one and to a lesser extent the street poster, as well as one sentence in each of the stories, were incorrect and/or unfair.
He reprimanded the newspaper for incorrectly reporting that two other parents had visited the school to complain of racism, when in fact they had not done so.
However, Retief dismissed several parts of the complaint, such as that we had been wrong to name the teacher in question, and for having used the word “racist” (in inverted commas) in the headlines.
To see the full judgment, go to www.presscouncil.org.za