Schäfer apologises to student for bleached hair incident, principal charged
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Cape Town - Education MEC Debbie Schäfer has apologised to the second-year education student who was allegedly denied an opportunity to observe a class at Vredenburg Primary School because of his hairstyle.
Stellenbosch University (SU) student William Sezoe, 19, who bleached the top of his hair blonde, was required to start his compulsory class observation on February 15 at the school of his choice for two weeks, as part of his module.
Sezoe alleged that he was chased away by Andre Muller, the principal of 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.
After the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) and the MEC came under pressure from the public, with calls for Muller to be suspended with immediate effect, both the WCED and SU conducted an investigation into the matter.
Recently, Schäfer wrote to Sezoe telling him that the department had completed its investigation and that the principal was being charged.
Sezoe said he appreciated the MEC’s apology.
“It does indeed bring some sort of relief also knowing that her department made progress with the investigation. But I think I will feel a whole lot better after the result, which will hopefully be a positive outcome, of the disciplinary hearing next week and also an apology from the principal,” he said.
WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond confirmed that the investigation had been finalised, and the principal had been charged with misconduct.
Hammond said a disciplinary hearing was scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.
She said the outcome of the hearing would determine the action taken.
“(Schäfer) did email the student and informed him that the investigation had been finalised and that the principal has been charged. She apologised for the ’experience that you (Mr Sezoe) had with the WCED’,” said Hammond.
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.
EFF Western Cape chairperson Melikhaya Xego called for Schäfer to suspend Muller immediately, and labelled the incident as racist.
Xego said it was extremely shocking that the principal of a school would psychologically and emotionally bully a young student in the manner that Muller had done.
ANC provincial spokesperson on education Khalid Sayed said the ANC has 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.