Investigation into Cape principal’s remarks about student teacher’s hairstyle
Cape Town - The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) and the University of Stellenbosch (US) are investigating Vredenburg Primary School, after the principal allegedly denied a second-year education student an opportunity to observe a class because of his hairstyle.
William Sezoe, 19, who bleached the top of his hair blonde, was required to start his compulsory class observation last Monday at the school of his choice for two weeks, as part of his module.
However, he alleged that he was chased away by Andre Muller, the principal of the Vredenburg Primary School, after repeatedly saying that he was not welcome in “his” school “with that kind of hair”, as he would set learners a bad example.
Sezoe said after the barrage from the principal, in front of staff, learners and their parents, he left with a broken heart and reported to a local office of the provincial education department, where he found a long queue of people.
“I then decided to go home, but inside I was dying.
“How the principal acted towards me touched my heart, and I vented out on social media, because I wanted to calm myself. He could have just spoken nicely, maybe call me to his office to address the situation, not to shout in front of learners, teachers and parents,” said Sezoe.
WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said the department has been made aware of the incident. However, she said initial reports from both sides were contradictory, and the department was therefore making further enquiries.
“Following the initial enquiries made by the district, the matter was referred to Labour Relations for further investigation. The district has submitted all documents acquired to Labour Relations,” said Hammond.
She said SU was also addressing the matter with the school.
SU spokesperson Martin Viljoen said the university and, specifically, the Faculty of Education placed a high premium on ensuring a positive relationship between schools and student teachers during their placements.
Viljoen said the faculty was therefore troubled to hear about the incident involving one of its second-year students, who indicated that he found the experience traumatic.
“The faculty has expressed its concerns about this matter to the principal and appealed for an urgent need to resolve the problem in a forward-looking manner,” said Viljoen.
He said a further meeting with the school would be held this week.
“Sezoe was made aware of counselling services offered by the university, but he indicated he does not need the services at the moment.”
ANC provincial spokesperson on education Khalid Sayed said the situation was shocking yet unsurprising.
“As the ANC, we have been calling on the WCED to embark on a process to review all schools’ codes of conduct, to identify and rectify all sections that give rise to racism in schools.”
EFF Western Cape chairperson Melikhaya Xego said it was extremely shocking that an the principal of a school would psychologically and emotionally bully a young student in the manner that Muller had done.
Xego called for Education MEC Debbie Schäfer to suspend Muller immediately.
“We also call on Shaffer to put resources in place to provide emotional support for the victim of this blatant racism.”
The Good party’s spokesperson for the Vredenburg area, Sammy Claassen, said the alleged actions by the principal smacked of racial discrimination, abuse of power, and a complete violation of government policies and regulations.