WITH the dawn of democracy came the desire and aspiration to give black children the best education available.
This came with black parents sending their children to former white-only schools known as former Model C schools in the suburbs.
Democracy came with the illusion of inclusion and a rainbow nation, but black learners’ treatment at these schools has shuttered this ideal.
The country witnessed racially fuelled battles at Hoërskool Jan Viljoen in Randfontein, which reminded everyone that racism was still rife in South Africa.
At the centre of the storm was an alleged racially-motivated fight between black and white pupils after a group of black Grade 8 pupils, who were allegedly listening to music during lunchtime, were approached by a white schoolmate who told them to stop playing, “your k****r music” here.
Learners were then called animals and pushed around.
Following the fights, allegations of a racist culture and the protection of a sexual predator surfaced and a teacher was suspended for sexual misconduct on Thursday.
There were allegations of racism among pupils and staff.
That resulted in the Education Department and the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) descending on the school.
The two entities will investigate the allegations that have been made.
On February 14, Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi visited the school to intervene, but he was interrupted by angry protesters who barricaded the roads leading to the school.
The police had to use rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.
Sharing their children’s experiences at the school, it was evident there was a severe racial divide.
Black parents said white pupils harassed their children and the white parents denied allegations of racism.
Thabo Katiba said he believed the violence was racially motivated as black pupils were treated badly.
He said children came home and shared horrific experiences with them.
“My child is in Grade 8, and the other day he told me that a white classmate called him a k****r, and the teachers did nothing about it.
“I don’t know what happened that day.
“I heard the boy was listening to music under a tree when these white boys told him he was making noise with his k****r music and attacked him.
“But from what I have heard from my son, I can believe that racism is rife at the school,” he said.
Sammy Mokgale echoed the sentiments.
He said his daughter was still new at this school, but from the times he was on the premises and watched what was happening, the school was a breeding ground for racism.
“I smelled racism the first day when I got here.
“Even when there is entertainment, our children are forced to perform in Afrikaans.
“Although they mix with other cultural activities here and there, Afrikaans is playing a bigger part,” he said.
White parents, however, hold a different view.
Donald Petersen said the fight was not a racial issue, adding that he was concerned about children’s behaviour in schools.
“I am glad that they were suspended from the school.
“But as a parent, I am concerned about the behaviour in the school.
“I have two children here, and the other is a girl.
“I am worried when children behave like this.”
Eric van Wyk said both parties were wrong, no matter the skin colour.
“At first, a school is not a place for violence.
“I am a concerned parent, and parents should discipline their children.
“Everyone who was involved should be expelled so that all learners can enjoy their studies peacefully, which is a right to education,” he said.
Even the pupils appear to hold differing views, drawn along racial lines.
A pupil said blacks were insulted by their white schoolmates and teachers.
“They call us to swear at us using their Afrikaans language.
“This is the treatment we are getting here.
“Even last week, these boys were chilling and playing music when these whites attacked them.”
Another pupil said: “Here, we are harassed by teachers and white pupils.
“We are targeted for the colour of our skin.
“The worst part is they insult us in Afrikaans.”
A white pupil refuted the allegations, saying the blacks were ill-treating them.
“Even during the fight, other black students called a white leaner a ’ma se p***’,” she said.
Sadtu general secretary Mugwena Maluleke attributed such violence and racial tensions to the historical background of the schools.
“When you see racism flaring up, it is because of the resistance of the school to change.
“You will find that the school management and the school governing body are resisting change.
“Not necessarily changing the name, but literally would resist any required change.
“These institutions are sustaining racism and white supremacy and would not allow a change,” he said.
Maluleke said black excellence schools were doing well, but parents opted to take their children to private and former Model-C schools because of the perception that the quality was good.
“These black schools are working under very difficult circumstances, but they still make it.
“The perception is that when you take your child to a private school and a former Model-C, the quality is good,” said Maluleke.
Meanwhile, the Education Department in the Western Cape launched an investigation into allegations of racism after reports that a black pupil at Milnerton High School was allegedly made to kneel and bow to a white pupil.
The country had many incidents of racism at schools over the years.
In 2016, Pretoria High School for Girls made headlines when black learners were told they couldn’t wear their hair in Afros and needed to straighten their hair.
The same school made the news again in 2020 over videos of racial slurs in the school.
Learners claimed nothing has changed since the 2016 protest.