Former Brackenfell High pupils’ petition calls for school to launch independent probe into alleged racism
Cape Town – Over 600 people have so far signed a petition, titled "Open letter to the principal and SGB of Brackenfell High School from alumni", imploring the school to investigate racism allegations.
"Concerned and proud alumni of Brackenfell High School" have urged principal Jannie Muller and school governing body chairperson Guillaume Smit to show they are serious about rooting out racism.
Once the school of Springbok wing and 2019 World Cup star Cheslin Kolbe, the petition states: ’’We have watched in anguish and sadness how our beloved school has become a national talking point for all the wrong reasons – allegations of structural racism, racial prejudice and inequality.
’’No school wants to be in the news – nationally and even abroad – because of what we have witnessed over the past few weeks.'’
EFF members were attacked on November 9 at the start of a planned protest against alleged racism. A subsequent attempted march by Pan Africanist Congress was halted last week.
Last Friday, EFF supporters caused mayhem in Brackenfell when they ignored an order allowing only 100 people to protest, with property being damaged and police being forced to fire tear gas, a water cannon and stun grenades.
While acknowledging the school’s recent letter to parents in which it expresses ’’regret for the pain caused to pupils of colour’’, committing to resume sensitivity and diversity training next year, the former pupils ’’believe you cannot fully heal unless you open the wound’’.
The only way to get to the bottom of the allegations of deep-seated racism at the school, they believe, is to institute an independent fact-finding mission, headed by a retired judge or senior counsel.
The full petition letter reads: ’’We have watched in anguish and sadness how our beloved school has become a national talking point for all the wrong reasons – allegations of structural racism, racial prejudice and inequality.
’’No school wants to be in the news – nationally and even abroad – because of what we have witnessed over the past few weeks. I am sure that you, like us, would prefer our school to be in the spotlight for its excellent academic results, diversity of cultural activities or sports achievements, including being the home of Springbok superstar Cheslin Kolbe.
’’The protests outside our school couldn’t have come at a worst time for the 2020 matric class, who are writing their final exams after an extremely challenging year.
’’We have noted that the controversial ’private’ matric farewell has unleashed the debate about racism at Brackenfell High School and have heard and read a myriad of ’us and them’ accounts.
’’Alumni are coming forward with heinous stories about alleged discrimination at the hands of current and former teachers. Current and former pupils have resorted to Instagram to share their pain more than five months ago.
’’They have called on others to use ’our link so that your story can be heard…we will not be silenced’. To date, they have 100 posts and garnered close to 2 500 followers.
’’Former pupils are also finding the freedom to speak openly out about their lived experiences of racism – from subliminal remarks to hateful speech. They brought this to the school’s attention earlier this year.
’’Parents of all races are imploring you not to sweep things under the carpet. They want their children to live in a country where they are respected and valued – irrespective of the colour of their skin. This is the country and the Brackenfell High that we all dream of.
’’We acknowledge your letter to parents in which you express regret for the pain caused to pupils of colour and your commitment to resume sensitivity and diversity training next year. However, we believe you cannot fully heal unless you open the wound.
’’It is our opinion that the only way to get to the bottom of the allegations of deep-seated racism at the school is to institute an independent fact-finding mission, headed by a retired judge or senior counsel, to investigate these claims.
’’We believe this is the only way to send a clear message to your current and former pupils, the schooling community and the country at large that Brackenfell High School is serious about rooting out racism.
’’Those who have suffered racism at the hands of the school should be allowed to come forward and disclose their experiences in a safe and formalised space. Only once the truth has been established, and all the voices have been heard, the healing process can start.
’’We trust that the school can only move forward by learning from the past and that this course of action will show a commitment on your part to deal with institutionalised discrimination in a meaningful way.’’