File picture: African News Agency (ANA)
File picture: African News Agency (ANA)

No pupils interviewed in probe into alleged Brackenfell High racist matric ball

By Okuhle Hlati Time of article published Jan 28, 2021

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Cape Town – The Western Cape Education Department's (WCED) highly anticipated report into the matric ball attended by some Brackenfell High School pupils has been slammed as a “whitewash” after it emerged that investigators had not spoken to a single learner at the school.

More than a month after the ANC's Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) application was made, the WCED yesterday released the report to the party in the legislature.

Education MEC Debbie Schäfer had previously refused to publicly share the report, claiming it contained “confidential or sensitive information”. In a statement, however, she said no evidence was found that people were excluded based on their race.

’’According to the report signed by a chief education specialist, interviews were conducted with the principal, four educators who all attended the function, the organiser of the event, who is a parent of a Grade 12 learner at the school, and the chairperson of the governing body.

’’The Masked Ball, at the Skilpadvlei Wine Farm on October 17, was allegedly organised by a parent after the school cancelled the annual 2020 matric ball.

“No interviews with learners were conducted due to their involvement in their National Senior Certificate examinations. Only one parent of colour was interviewed on reasons why his child did not attend the event.

’’The event was opened not only to learners from other class groups, but also friends of her daughter that attended other schools,” the report reads.

“The organisers indicated that both the Head Girl and Head Boy were invited to the event but declined because they had other plans on that day and were also planning their own farewell functions. Only a few teachers were invited to the event, in their personal capacity.”

The report further claimed an invitation was sent to other learners and publicised on the school WhatsApp group, allowing more learners to become aware of the event.

ANC spokesperson on education Khalid Sayed said there were procedural as well as substantive challenges in the report, including that no learners were interviewed while all except one parent interviewed, were white.

He said while the report acknowledges that “there were various allegations of racism made by learners and ex-learners”, no reason is provided why ex-learners were not interviewed

“As a result, we do not know as fact whether all learners were invited to the event.

“Some of the substantive issues remain that the educators themselves involved in the planning of the event knew and had concerns that only white learners were present while the school insists it was a private party and had its own investigation even though it gives no indication who shared the invitation and why they allowed it to be used on the school’s official medium,” Sayed said.

South African Human Rights Commission’s (SAHRC) education commissioner André Gaum said their preliminary investigation was expected next month.

“We are aware of the WCED’s report that was made public but at this stage we cannot comment as our own investigation is pending. The preliminary findings will focus first on the matric function.

’’Then a second phase and third part will follow focusing on allegations of racism by past and present learners and then clashes outside the school.

“We will also be taking the PAC party to court for a slogan or phrase they used during the protests,” said Gaum.

Cape Times

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