Former students of Rustenburg Girls’ High School have spoken out about their experiences of racism at that school. They have created a platform where stories can be told in order to provide validation, catharsis, healing and the restitution of dignity for those voices that were previously subdued. I am providing space here for a document that they have compiled.
Nuraan Davids writes, “the fact that past and present learners have taken to a public space to voice their frustration, anger and pain is a confirmation that they did not experience their school as a safe space.” The complete article can be read here.
Parents for Change commend the courage of those current and former students of private and former model C schools who have spoken out about their experiences of racism and the impairment of their dignity. Those who have spoken out include young people associated with both Rustenburg Girls’ Junior and High Schools, as well as other schools in the southern suburbs of Cape Town. Our youth insist that we centre the historical woundedness, social incongruencies and our uneven inheritances. They demand new forms of accountability.
We also note the accounts of the undervaluing and bullying of Black
teachers in schools, and the poor offering of marginalized African languages,
particularly in primary schools. We believe that it is the responsibility of
the schools to value these teachers and protect them from all forms of
bullying. The schools should also consider reviewing their policies and offer
marginalized languages as a way of fast-tracking social inclusion and the
transformation plans which many schools claim to be prioritizing.
Since 2017, Parents for Change (PfC) have been working to create and
support inclusive and transformed schools where all learners, staff and parents
are respected and treated with dignity and equity. We believe that this will
prepare our children to embrace and thrive in our diverse society as adults
with consequential social cohesion and the potential for healing.
The statements made by young people on the YouSilenceWeAmplify Instagram account and other social media sites have highlighted that we still have some way to go to realise our vision. These events are unfolding in the context of the global COVID19 pandemic and the #BlackLivesMatter movement, which have both exposed deep inequalities in our society and shown the need for new ways of being. The possibility of wilful ignorance, silence and amnesia no longer persists. Within this moment deep reflection is a pressing obligation.
What is critical is how the schools implicated by these allegations
respond. We believe that important first steps include admission of
institutional complicity in advancing racism, commitment to making racism a
matter that matters for us all, and being proactive regarding anti-racism work.
We hope that the schools will adopt a posture of humility and open themselves
up for listening and dialogue with the young people who have shown the courage
to share their stories, and that attempts will be made to seek answers and
justice for the girls who experienced blatant racism and discrimination. In
cases, where staff who are implicated in these incidents are still employed by
schools, urgent investigations are required.
Schools must be safe spaces where our children can learn and grow into whole adults. No child should have to be made to feel as if they do not belong. The lack of transformation and anti-racism work at schools has done a great disservice to both black and white students. We call on all members of school communities, including fellow parents, to become part of the change required in our society to enable thriving, wellbeing and healing in a context of deep historical wounds. We need to learn to be more explicit about white privilige, racism and search for blindspots.