Former pupils demand apology for racism they claim to have experienced at Redhill School
Allegations of racism and discrimination have engulfed top Johannesburg private school, Redhill School, following a string of complaints from former learners.
At the centre of the fight is the Alumni for Action group, which demands the school apologise for racism and discrimination students suffered there.
The school says they have started dealing with issues and are willing to address the allegations with a recognised alumni body.
The Alumni for Action group sent a letter of demand to Redhill School in June, saying the institution should publicly “acknowledge the impact that both the culture of white privilege they perpetuated and the lack of adequate procedures to deal with incidents of racial discrimination has had on its students - present and past”.
They asked that an independent probe into discrimination be instituted at the school.
In response, Redhill School executive head Joseph Gerassi apologised to the group about the treatment they received when they were students.
He detailed how the school was trying to be more inclusive by cancelling the hair policy, appointing a head of diversity and hiring more black teachers, among other transformative measures.
The group called Gerassi’s extensive response “underwhelming, superficial”.
“Our concern is that Redhill does not appear to be ready to listen and is more concerned with the appearance of being transformed rather than putting in the hard work required to ensure a legitimate change and protection for people of colour and those marginalised on your campus.”
They asked to have a virtual meeting with an independent facilitator; to which Gerassi said the diversity advisory committee was formed and there was no need for a meeting.
Africa Thaba, an alumnus of the school, said he studied there for about eight years and experienced blatant and subliminal racism.
“They cover it up and downplay it. It seems that the school’s relationship with the teachers is more important than with the students.”
Thaba said while he was there, the isiZulu teacher didn’t have a classroom.
“When it was time for the Zulu lesson we’d have to walk around with the teacher looking for an empty classroom. Sometimes we’d have to take lessons in the library. It was shocking to me that one of the country’s official languages would be treated like that while languages like French had classrooms.”
On Monday, Gerassi, who has been the head of the school for five years, said: “Redhill is seeking to create a bilingual English-isiZulu opt-in class in Grades2 and 3. Here the class teacher would teach most subjects in both English and isiZulu.”
He said once the allegations were levelled against the school, they worked with parents to form the diversity advisory committee made up of 12 parents.
Gerassi said the Alumni for Action group was “a small group of individuals who, in our opinion, do not have a mandate to represent actual Redhill alumni”.