The Westerford High principal said the school treated matters of this nature very seriously and he was satisfied that the appropriate action had been taken. Photo: African News Agency (ANA)
The Westerford High principal said the school treated matters of this nature very seriously and he was satisfied that the appropriate action had been taken. Photo: African News Agency (ANA)

Westerford High School addresses racism, discrimination raised on 'You Silence We Amplify'

By Theolin Tembo Time of article published Jun 12, 2020

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Cape Town - Westerford High School has addressed the experiences of racism and discrimination faced by people of colour who previously attended or are attending the school.

Over the last two weeks, amid the backdrop of the global #BlackLivesMatter movement, current and former pupils from more than 20 elite Cape high schools have exposed what they deem blatant racism experienced at the hands of staff and fellow pupils.

An Instagram account named  @yousilenceweamplify has created a platform where current and former pupils have shared their experiences of racism and systemic oppression. 

The pupils include some from Rondebosch Boys’ High, Westerford High, Springfield Convent Senior, Rustenberg Girls’ High, various Waldorf schools, St Cyprian’s, SACS, Wynberg Girls’ High, Pinelands High, The Settlers High, Edgemead High, Cedar House, Rhenish Girls’ High and Reddam House.

Westerford High School took to its Facebook page on Wednesday, addressing the remarks and the experiences of current and former pupils, saying that it has been difficult to hear and see what has been said, but the school realises more needs to be done to become more inclusive for people of colour.

"It has been important to read and absorb the many stories that have been posted over the past days - stories that relate to the hurt caused by racial intolerance either between pupils and teachers, or among pupils themselves in the past and up until the present day.

"Westerford has for many years been seen to be a progressive school. Sadly. this claim has not always been true. Many of the posts that have recently been shared tell a different story."

School management said that after the posts and in listening to the voice behind what has been shared on social media, the school is taking a number of steps to address these issues:

- We acknowledge and are deeply sorry for the pain caused by staff and /or pupils through racial intolerance, prejudice and insensitivity - whether direct, indirect or subtle - at Westerford in the past, and for those stories yet untold, that are possibly too difficult to share.

- We commit to an ongoing process of transforming and re-envisioning our structures and policing that relate to every aspect of school life, to ensure that they serve to create an equitable, fair and safe Iearning environment for all pupils and staff of colour.

- This restorative process will be consultative and will include the voices of Old Westerfordians (OWs), current pupils, staff and parents. We have appreciated the positive posts from OWs that have been shared — those comments give us hope that many of the recent initiatives that have been start. have been of value, and are worth building on.

- The teaching staff have committed themselves to a statement of intent — a commitment to work individually and collectively towards fostering a spirit of equality which has at heart a determination to root out all prejudice, especially racism, at Westerford. (Statement below)

- As a school we had begun a dialogue in term one this year, using the services of an outside social literacy agency. Very unfortunately, that process was interrupted by the announcement of lockdown. We recognise the urgency of continuing those conversations as soon as conditions allow us to do so. We will utilise time and finances wisely, in order to facilitate intersectional dialogue in a programme that extends throughout the five years of a pupil's Westerford High School experience, so that all pupils will be able to look back fondly on their years at school, and be proud to have been a Westerfordian.

- We Iook forward to inviting new generations of future Westerfordians of all races, cultures. genders and religions into the gates of the school to enjoy an experience that is safe and harmonious - one characterised by understanding. equality, respect and dignity.. are determined to ensure that this becomes a reality. As the management and staff of Westerford, we commit to nothing but our best in this critical endeavour.

The staff has also committed to do the following:

The schools said that they realise their statement is not a "final document" but rather a statement of intent which they plan to re-visit regularly to ensure its implementation. 

"We are aware that we will not get everything right going forward and are prepared to be held accountable when we fail to be guided by the above.

"In addition to the above commitments from staff we commit to put into place a clear policy to deal with incidents of racism and other forms of discrimination or inappropriate behaviour on the part of any staff member or pupil."

Cape Argus

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