Cornwall Hill College principal Leon Kunneke apologises for delay in transformation
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Pretoria - The Gauteng school at the centre of a racism storm has admitted to have failed its learners, as past and present pupils accused it of having enabled a discriminatory culture by obsessing with black hair and turning a blind eye to racial prejudice.
As angry parents and pupils descended on the school at Irene in Tshwane to seek answers, Cornwall Hill College yesterday admitted more could have been done to speed up transformation and ensure equal representation of diversity at all levels at the school.
Executive principal Leon Kunneke, who asked for forgiveness, apologised to parents and learners who had organised a peaceful protest against the prevailing racism at the school.
Kunneke said the executive “sincerely apologised” for the delay in transforming the college and indicated that they had renewed their commitment to do so without further delay.
He said the school would endeavour to transform the board as well as the staff complement without compromising the standard of education. In so doing, they would also ensure the school mirrored the demographics of the learner body and the community they served.
“We fully recognise that we need to match words with deeds. Although we immediately moved to establish the Diversity and Transformation Committee last year after having received a disturbing addendum from past and present learners, admittedly, we could have done better and, in retrospect, we could have moved faster.
“We recognise your frustration with the slow progress, but also that mistakes are lessons to be learnt. It is now our time, as a collective, to turn the page and rewrite what the Cornwall Hill College family stands for.”
Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi, who was visiting the school yesterday, promised black learners and their parents that racism and mistreatment would no longer take place at the school.
The MEC took the opportunity to thank the parents for standing up for their children, and the leadership for recognising that something was not right at the school.
Lesufi said his message was simply for them to go back to the negotiation table and work towards building non-racialism.
“In protecting this school, we must not protect the wrong things. And we must do so by promoting non-racialism which is the future. We don’t want revenge; we just want to be together.”
Lesufi said the school had assured his department that there was no need to bring in their legislative arm or whatever power the government had, as together with the parents they could resolve this.
He also emphasised to the school to stop its obsession with children’s hair as everyone was human and deserved to be happy.
Lesufi made this comment following an emotional recollection by learner Singo Ravele, who told of how she was first told her hair was unkempt and “simply not the Cornwall Hill way” when she was in Grade 4.
“We don't want to enter the premises of our schools and be reminded of our history or who we are. We want to enter this school and build a South Africa we can be proud of.”
Lesufi promised the learners at the school that racism would come to an end and that the school would have teachers who represented everyone.
Head girl Agang Ntimane said she grew up battling an identity crisis after growing up in the school, as the school barred them from having dreadlocks.
Ntimane said they truly hoped the support of parents and the MEC would result in change even for the slightest unjust policies at the school.
Parents hosted a protest during the school’s golf fundraiser last week stating that although it had been a year since the Diversity and Transformation Committee was set up at the school, little to no effort had been made to address and begin working on diversity and transformation. The make-up of the board of the school was said to be no better, as it only featured white males and white women.