School denies racial bullying claims
Johannesburg - Only seven of the 23 assaults at the Heidelberg Volkskool were a result of racial bullying, the school governing body (SGB) said on Monday.
It also said it would be implementing an anti-racial bullying strategy at the school "in due haste".
"Since 2009 and under the management of our new SGB and the current school principal six cases of assault were reported to the police (...) only two can be classified as racial bullying," said SGB chairperson, Charl Van Niekerk.
He said police reports showed there had been 14 cases where a white perpetrator assaulted a white victim, two cases where a black perpetrator assaulted a black victim, three cases where a white perpetrator assaulted a black victim and four cases where a black perpetrator assaulted a white victim.
"The official crime statistics suggest that racial bullying where black learners are the perpetrators and white learners are the victims occurred more frequently during the past five years (...) than the other way around.
"It further suggests that in the majority of incidents the perpetrator and the victim are both of the same racial group," Van Niekerk said.
He said the facts "must speak for itself".
"All of us must approach these sensitive issues from an evidence-based and data-driven perspective, otherwise we can easily slip into a quagmire of wrong assumptions and perceptions."
According to a report in The Star on September 15: "A boy died. A pregnant teenager was pelted with stones. A 14-year-old was assaulted and called a 'kaffir' and a 'monkey'."
The report said "it has taken at least five years of complaints about racism at Heidelberg Volkskool for the Gauteng department of education to finally launch an official investigation."
It described a recent attack at the school where a black Grade 8 pupil was allegedly assaulted, insulted and sworn at by a white Grade 11 pupil and when a school gardener intervened, he was manhandled by the youth who told him he should let him "bliksem (hit) a kaffir".
It also detailed an alleged incident in 2006 "where a 15-year-old pupil, who had just joined the school, was allegedly attacked by a group of white pupils. The teenager died in hospital a few days later."
However, Van Niekerk said: "Neither the police nor the health authorities could find any evidence of such an incident at the time of this media statement but we will await a final report.
"We urge everybody to resist the temptation to jump to conclusions based on vague allegations and to rather wait for the authorities to make the facts and evidence public."
He confirmed that discussions with pupils from all racial groups at the school verified that racial name-calling and stereotyping do occur.
"This is surely a sad indictment of our society as a whole."
The SGB had contacted an international non-profit organisation called Youth Crime Watch to assist it with the drafting and implementation of an anti-bullying strategy and policy.
"With their more than 31 years of international experience, including in Africa, we believe that their expertise will ensure that we draft and implement a workable anti-bullying strategy that can make a sustainable difference in our school."
The SGB said that bullying affects pupils' sense of security and that they had appealed to the local community police forum for assistance.
"(The forum) has invited all victims or perpetrators of bullying to visit the Heidelberg victim empowerment centre for free counselling and assistance."