Conduct of commission ­disappoints

2015-08-12 06:00

HOWARD NDABA, Free State Education Department spokesperson:

THE Free State Department of Education is dismayed and upset by the manner in which the Human Rights Commission (HRC) has made a vitriolic attack on the department.

In a media statement riddled with factual inaccuracies and innuendos, the commission wrongly accused the department of failing to deal with racism in the province’s public schools. Without verifying facts, the commission accused the department of employing the former Wilgehof Primary School teacher Mr Leonard Mackay, who was found guilty of racism.

This is despite various media reports which quoted Howard Ndaba, the departmental spokesperson, clarifying by who and how Mackay was employed.

We view the commission’s conduct as reactionary and opportunistic, as prior to Mackay’s employment by the Dr CF Visser Primary School’s Governing Body (SGB) the commission did not bother to approach the department to establish facts about the extent of our interventions in our crusade to deal with racism and other discriminatory practices in our schools.

In its quest to gain public relations mileage, it had to stoop so low as to tell the whole country what is factually incorrect. The fact of the matter is that on more than one occasion the commission has demonstrated its reluctance to work together with the department. For example, when the allegation of racism at the Dr Viljoen Combined School was reported by the local media, the commission made its investigation and when we requested to meet to discuss its findings, it refused.

It failed to give valuable information that could have assisted us in proceeding with our investigation and successfully prosecuting those found guilty of this heinous act.

The departmental task team responsible for dealing with racism in our schools was literally snubbed by the commission.

The dismissal of Mackay and Mr Roelfse, the former principal of Wilgehof, is clear testimony of our commitment to rooting out racism in our schools. Their appeals were dismissed and they have taken their case on arbitration.

After hearing through the media that Mackay had been employed by the SGB of Dr CF Visser, we approached and engaged the governing body to reconsider its decision. We are therefore pleased to inform the commission that Mackay has resigned following our intervention.

In addition, we want to inform the commission that we have developed a number of programmes to address racism, foster social cohesion and encourage learners to respect our national symbols and diversity. National flags were distributed in our schools and all schools are encouraged to embrace and sing the national and the African Union (AU) anthem.

We do this not because it is nice to do, but because it is part of the democratically-elected government’s commitment to correcting the wrongs of the past.

Following the Wilgehof saga many parents and learners contacted the department to complain about incidents.

We duly and swiftly investigated and put remedial measures in place in those schools.

For the commission to cast aspersions on the department based on unfounded allegations, is unfortunate. As we did in 2013, we again invite the public and the commission to report not only racism-related misdemeanours, but other social ills that have adverse effects on learning, teaching and children’s rights.

We want to categorically state as a department that we respect the critical role played by chapter-nine institutions, such as the HRC, in assisting to entrench democracy and accountability in all South Africans. Uprooting racism does not require public mudslinging and grandstanding, but a collaboration of all stakeholders, including the commission. Together we have to work together to deal with this malaise

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