Pinelands High School’s badge and motto change hailed by lobby groups
Cape Town - Calls for schools to reassess apartheid-era names and colonial symbols have been reignited following a move by Pinelands High School to redesign its crest and motto.
Education experts and lobby groups have since lauded the school and called for others to follow suit, saying little movement has been made to show transformation in schools in this respect.
The original school crest, which was designed 69 years ago when the school was established, included three gold circles that represented Jan van Riebeeck's family coat of arms. This has now changed to a book, a protea, Table Mountain and a sunburst.
The school's Latin motto Fides, Prudentia, Labour, that translates to Faith, Prudence, Work – has been changed to Diversity, Eenheid and Ukukhula.
A group of concerned former learners and parents had approached school management in 2017 over the crest being linked to a colonial past.
According to principal Dave Campbell, the changes followed a 3-year consultation and planning process that involved the school community.
“This was a significant change for the school so it was paramount to involve all stakeholders close to the school. Experts were also roped for inputs and advice. Surveys were conducted, we hosted a design competition and a design agency to work on the final concept was hired,” said Campbell.
He said there was a minority against the idea.
“The school has been on a transformative journey for the past 20 years. This has also been heightened by political change. Our values include compassion, inclusivity, kindness and are deeply rooted in diversity as it talks to unity. Embracing diversity also means that we are open to learning and growth,” said Campbell.
Taking the steps to change the crest was not erasing history but demonstrating the need to listen to one another, educating their learning about addressing the past and making them aware of social justice, he added.
Dr Nadia Kamies, a post-doctoral fellow in the University of Pretoria’s department of Historical and Heritage Studies, said racism and segregation was reinforced at every level of society and all institutions.
“We need to do more than dismantle apartheid legislation in order to realise a fully integrated society. We need to examine our history. Rid ourselves of the symbols that continue to reinforce racist notions of superiority and inferiority. We changed our Constitution, our coat of arms. What Pinelands High School has done is a microcosm of that same process that needs to continue. History was not being erased. It’s in books and museums and that is where it needs to be so that we can learn from it.”
Songezo Mazizi of Black People National Crisis Committee (BPNCC) called for more schools to reassess their own colonial symbols.
“This historic decision comes at a time when the presence of the colonial symbols in the public spaces provoked anger from the majority of South Africans whose ancestors were murdered by people who are celebrated through these symbols.”
Western Cape Education Department (WCED) spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said redress was important as legacies of apartheid made people feel excluded even in the school system.
“Many schools across the country have had consultation processes to rename their school.
“Pinelands is not the first to take such steps.”
She said the WCED could not force a school to change its name or its symbols, as this was entirely the prerogative of the SGB.