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Parklands College history teacher quits amid 'racist task' storm

Parklands College Picture: Supplied

Parklands College Picture: Supplied

Published Jun 11, 2020


Cape Town – The Parklands College history teacher behind the controversial “racist task” requiring Grade 7 pupils to design a poster to advertise a slave auction has resigned from the independent school.

The resignation comes as the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) said it would probe, with the Independent Schools’ Association of SA saying that it would weigh in on the matter tomorrow, while the EFF called for a broader investigation into racism at schools across the Western Cape.

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The school had come under fire following the assignment, labelled a “fun task”, asking pupils to create an advertisement for a slave trade auction in 30 minutes. “The person with the best advertisement will get a Cadbury slab of chocolate when you get back to school,” the task read.

The pupils were also given two slide sample advertisements of a slave trade with pictures of black men standing to be auctioned, with the words, “Land and negros for sale!” “To be sold, a cargo of 94 prime healthy negros, 39 men, 15 boys, 24 women and 16 girls. Just arrived.”

The school’s secondary faculty principal, Sylvia Steyn, said yesterday that the 31-year-old teacher had been at the school since September last year.

“The exercise, directed at our Grade 7 learners, was clearly offensive. The slave trade can under no circumstances be viewed or linked to ‘fun events’, ever. Nor can the perpetuation of stereotypes and colonially influenced history be condoned by us as a centre of learning. The Grade 7 history educator has chosen to submit his resignation,” Steyn said.

The school has since committed to re-evaluating its curriculum, while an online survey will be forwarded to parents, past pupils and staff who wish to notify them of any form of discrimination they suffered, and staff will attend workshops to identify any policies, processes, procedure or parts of the curriculum that may be discriminatory. 

Earlier this week, parents on Facebook demanded that Steyn redraft an initial apology, after the school said the activity should have been “worded differently”.

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The EFF in the province said the assignment came in the wake of calls against systemic racism through the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

“The very idea of thinking that amusement can be derived from the intergenerational pain of slavery and its aftermath is in itself the tip of a much bigger iceberg in many schools in the Western Cape - institutionalised racism.

“We have seen it in the US with the deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, George Floyd and many others, and in South Africa, where black people are referred to as monkeys. 

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"In addition to the teacher’s dismissal, we demand the Western Cape Education Department and SAHRC lodge an investigation not only against Parklands College, but various other high schools where alleged cases of racism have been reported throughout the Western Cape. The EFF will also approach the Office of the Children’s Commissioner to investigate.

“The EFF will use its power to ensure that racism is uprooted in our schools and society,” the party said.

The provincial Education Department had previously urged pupils to report any incidents. Elijah Mhlanga, the spokesperson for Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, said he was waiting for more information on the matter.

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Cape Times

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