Outrage over teacher’s alleged racist slurs
Johannesburg - Yet another teacher is in trouble with the Department of Basic Education for allegedly using racial slurs in class.
This article has been updated below.
The alleged misconduct involves a Grade 8 history teacher at the prestigious National School of the Arts in Braamfontein, Joburg.
She is alleged to have told her pupils that black people were demons and the reason the government was failing was because it was led by blacks.
The teacher’s alleged racial remarks came to light last Thursday when the parent of one of the pupils complained to the Gauteng Department of Basic Education.
The mother had received an SMS from her 13-year-old daughter about the alleged racial abuse.
The SMS reads in part: “Hello mommy sorry to wake you up… I just wanted to tell you that Miss (name withheld) the History teacher has gone out of hand.
“First she called black people demons then she said the reason why government is so bad because black people… and black people are stupid for voting ANC cause look at Western Cape with DA they are more than happy thanks to white people.”
The girl then expresses her anxiety in the SMS about the teacher.
“It’s getting out of hand and we seeing her today I’m just saying if she makes another one mommy I’m out of the class.”
Gauteng Education Department spokeswoman Phumla Sekhonyane said the department had launched an independent investigation.
The school has a clause in its code of conduct that pledges to “recognise the unique identity and character of each person” and its “protection of the rights, dignity and self-esteem of each learner, educator and of every member of the school community”.
The department has had to recently deal with a spate of cases involving racist teachers.
In March, The Star published a story about a parent who complained to Ridgeway Primary School in Roodepoort after a teacher allegedly told her 10-year-old son that he was “stupid like (President) Jacob Zuma who could not pronounce numbers properly in his speeches”.
The teacher allegedly made the disparaging remark after the child could not answer a maths question.
The matter is still under investigation.
In 2010, a teacher at Reservoir Hills Secondary School in Durban landed herself in trouble after she compared her pupils’ behaviour to that of Zuma.
The teacher was given a written warning for remarking that her pupils were “acting innocently, like… the stupid one, President Jacob Zuma”.
The Star understands that two parents visited the school on Monday to complain about the teacher’s alleged misconduct.
More angry parents were due to visit the school on Tuesday.
The girl’s mother said the teacher had been using racist language for about two months. She said last Thursday’s SMS was the last straw.
“There is a lot of name-calling. Children are being called morons, stupid and that they are not getting anywhere, except to wash dishes. I could feel my child’s pain when she threatened to walk out of class,” the mother said.
She said she was worried her child could drop out of school.
“These are babies coming from primary (school), where they were trained to handle classroom pressure. Instead, they are being shot down,” she said, urging the department to act.
“It’s not about me, it’s about what they are trying to instil in our children. They think children are supposed to grow up with a low self-esteem, knowing that they are inferior to their white counterparts. It has long-term psychological effects to feel they are inferior and stupid because of their colour.”
Newly appointed Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said he “would be monitoring this matter very closely”.
SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) spokesman Isaac Mangena said the commission was not aware of the incident. “If it is true, then it is very unfortunate and wrong. We urge anyone aggrieved to approach the SAHRC.”
MATTER OF FACT (23 September 2014)
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