Pietermaritzburg – A petition, calling for an anti-racism policy to be implemented, among other things, at Pietermaritzburg Girls' High School, where an alleged racist incident occurred, has garnered traction on social media.
Among the list of demands is that the white pupil, who allegedly referred to fellow pupils as k*ffirs after they mispronounced her name, offer an unreserved apology to pupils and that she be barred from ever taking on a leadership role at the school.
The pupil has since been suspended, despite calls for her to be expelled.
The petition, which initially called for 300 signatures, has since been upped to 800 signatures as they had already received 718.
The petition, addressed to the Pietermaritzburg Girls’ High School (GHS) school governing body (SGB), was created by 23-year-old Zamaphephetwa Nzimande, on Awethu Amandla.
She matriculated from the school in 2011.
Nzimande said that she was happy with the suspension of the pupil, saying she understands why the pupil was not expelled.
“You can’t just expel someone; there is certain process that has to be followed, suspension before expulsion. I respect the school’s decision to follow the rules. I am not going to call for her expulsion, that’s not my place but certainly, an example must be made because people are enraged,” she said.
Nzimande explained that the list of demands on her petition were mostly from a personal space and based on the fact that she had seen how race issues were swept under the rug at the institution. She slammed the statement released by the SGB as a "non-statement with no real plan of action".
Nzimande said there was a need for permanent and real change in order to prevent racist incidents from occurring in future.
“We need policy changes to help us going forward. As far as I know, there is no transparent policy that is in place for racism at the school. All girls [I’ve spoken to] have also expressed their concerns and personal experiences of a lot of overt and not-so-obvious racist incidents they experienced,” she said.
The list of demands also included renaming all the school houses to names of South African women who were involved in the struggle against apartheid as an olive branch to the community, and Old Girls. Furthermore, the petition called for a transparent process for reporting racist incidents, and for each pupil to attend a compulsory course on race relations in an unequal society upon admission.
Meanwhile KwaZulu Natal's Education MEC Mthandeni Dlungwana's spokesperson Kwazi Mthethwa said the pupil could not simply be expelled as due process had to be followed.
“This is a democratic country; you are innocent until you are proven otherwise. This is still a person, but she should have known better.
“We have written to the parents of the child to inform them that the child is placed on suspension pending an investigation,” Mthethwa said, adding the girl had already written a few exam papers.