During a recent conversation with the management of Hoërskool Jan Viljoen and the education department of Gauteng, it was admitted that it was a difficult task to lead the school through a transition.
Gauteng’s Education Department, MEC Panyaza Lesufi, met with the school’s parents to allay their concerns after an allegedly racially motivated fight that broke out between two groups of students earlier this month.
Randfontein Police Spokesperson Sergeant Carmen Hendricks told Randfontein Herald at the time the altercation was caused by a group playing music, when another told them they were making noise. A fight then broke out.
A ‘non-racial’ SA. to build
“Building a truly non-racial South Africa starts in the classroom. If it can’t start there, we’ll never get there,” Lesufi said during his speech on Sunday.
Lesufi said the school had “taken a stance to reject any form of racism within the school building”, despite encountering “challenges of racism”.
A representative council of student camp, involving the very first “non-racial group” of matric students, was one of the ways the school said it was moving towards diversity.
The school also said it would introduce other sports, such as football.
Lesufi has pledged to consolidate all parental views in a document that will be handed over to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), which is tasked with investigating allegations of racism.
He said an independent agency was also tasked with “examining everyone”.
“Do not point the finger at each other, but in the direction we want to go to build a truly non-racial South Africa. We will not allow anyone to divide,” Lesufi said.
The attitude of school management was one where implementing an agenda of diversity required intense support, Lesufi said.
He said the school was functional but struggled to navigate the transition process.
Parents arguing with each other
Parents were warned that their “beautiful school” was in danger of being destroyed by things like the alleged racial altercation.
Lesufi’s speech on Sunday was supposed to take place on Thursday, but was postponed due to bad weather.
In anticipation of the MEC on Thursday, however, parents would reportedly collided†
Lesufi briefly told parents that a school staff member had been suspended from the school board over allegations of sexual harassment.
He also confirmed that the SAHRC had already started investigating the numerous allegations of racism and sex crimes at the school.
“I was hurt and deeply disappointed that at a meeting I arranged here, parents were doing exactly what our children were doing two weeks ago; where parents at this school argued among themselves.
“We have to condemn that thing. It means that our children learn from us.
“I urge you as parents to embrace a truly non-racial South Africa. You may have your feelings… what we have and are committed… we are committed to building a truly non-racial South Africa… it starts in the classroom.”
The teachers, Lesufi continued, also did not reflect South African society, another point he said the school was “rectifying”.
Despite mounting tensions between students and parents at Hoërskool Jan Viljoen, people gathered to share their frustrations at the school’s apparent lack of intervention to quell incidents of alleged racism and bullying.
One by one, willing parents came forward and told their children’s stories about their experiences at school.
What emerged from the meeting was disturbing, from being beaten up to being given bottles of urine.
Parents asked for the safety of their children and for more involvement in school activities.
Listen to some testimonials, filmed by Randfontein Heraldbelow.
Edited by Nica Richards.