Youth Day issues hark back to the original June 16 riots
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AHEAD of Youth Day on Wednesday, young people from a number of schools around the country have raised their voices against racism and discrimination, the same issues that led to the youth of 1976 being targeted by the apartheid government.
Disturbing scenes unfolded at the Witbank Technical High School in Mpumalanga on Monday, when black and white parents exchanged blows as rival groups claiming to represent learners fought to “protect” the school.
Some parents and pupils who spoke to media outside the school during the scuffles said the chaos emanated from a recent fight between a black learner and a schoolmate.
At the heart of the issue was the suspension of two black pupils following a fight after a white learner allegedly used the k-word to one of them.
Some learners at the school said the racial tensions between learners have been simmering for a long time and that teachers had failed to address the situation.
“The children who are in the technical classes, we fight in class, and every time an incident happens they (school administration) say they are going to sort it. But they don’t. The other time there was a fight in class, they said we should write letters and nothing happened. It has been three weeks now,” a pupil told reporters.
“The problem started off a schoolyard scuffle, and I’m sure if it was two white kids fighting, I’m sure we wouldn’t be here,” one community member said.
“If it were black kids fighting, I am sure they would have been silently expelled. There would be no issues at all.”
Mpumalanga MEC Bonakele Majuba visited the school and announced that classes had been suspended for a week following a meeting with school officials and community leaders.
Reports emerged on Monday that issues relating to racism at the German International School in Cape Town in the City centre after children at the private institution levelled allegations that a teacher made derogatory comments insinuating that children of colour are less likely to achieve academic success based on inherent intellectual inferiority relating to the colour of their skin.
While the school could not be reached for comment on Monday a parent who asked to remain anonymous said: “The (official) needs to publicly apologise to the students and the school also needs to apologise about the way they’ve handled the entire matter. The principal needs to prove to us, as parents of colour, that he’s sincere about increasing the capacity of the school to be able to handle a crisis like this one. I applaud the students for speaking out.”
In Khayelitsha, a provincial Education Department official allegedly made discriminatory remarks during an assembly at the Centre of Science and Technology School (Cosat) on Thursday.
The Metro East official allegedly referred to those who have traditional beliefs as being “abnormal” or “crazy” when they are engaging with their ancestors.
School principal Phadiela Cooper said as the school they could not comment on the matter as it was under mediation.
Picketing outside the school yesterday, Congress of South African Students (Cosas) demanded action against the official. Its acting secretary-general, Mphumzi Giwu, said they were disappointed by the comments made.
“Many learners did not come to school on Friday as they felt offended by the words that were spoken by the official. We expected the official, as a person of colour, to understand that some students have a calling.
“One of the pupils had a ‘calling’ last week and she could not spiritually control what was awakening her spirit. She was told to attend to her ‘calling’ outside of the school gates and no ambulance would be called for her. We are disappointed by those remarks and learners’ rights and beliefs must be respected,” he said.
Western Cape Education Department spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said the official categorically denied Cosas’s claims.