Free State school staff guilty of hate speech

2014-07-23 16:49

The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has found a Bloemfontein school’s staff guilty of hate speech towards black and coloured pupils.

“The commission found against the principal and staff at Dr Viljoen Combined School in a racism case,” the commission’s spokesperson Isaac Mangena said today.

The SAHRC investigated allegations that pupils at the school were exposed to dehumanising and racist treatment by staff, including the principal, in May 2013.

Children at the school alleged staff called them racist, derogatory and belittling names, such as “kaffirs”, “baboons”, “monkeys” and “little black bitches”.

Mangena said the commission found the remarks clearly constituted hate speech as defined by the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act.

“These acts of hate speech constitute a clear violation of both the right to equality and human dignity of the learners,” he said.

The school failed to create a learning environment free of harmful elements like racist utterances and demeaning remarks. This further violated both the right to education and children’s rights.

The commission made various recommendations for the school and the Free State education department.

Both institutions must develop procedures for countering racism.

The school’s governing body has to establish policies and guidelines to counter racism and submit them to the commission for review.

The school and department must increase teachers’ and pupils’ understanding of racism.

The department has to train school staff to value diversity, to understand other cultures and to develop strategies to counter racism, all within six months.

Free State education spokesperson Howard Ndaba said the department had received the commission’s report and was studying it.

The school’s principal was not immediately available for comment.

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