College SGB welcomes probe into alleged racism

2017-10-20 13:53

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The Maritzburg College School Governing Body (SGB) has said that it welcomes a decision by the KZN Education Department to investigate allegations of racism at the school.

This follows a recent incident involving three Grade 12 pupils who posted a party-political image of themselves in school uniform. The photograph was posted on various social media platforms.

In a statement sent out to all stakeholders and posted on the school’s website on Wednesday, SGB chairperson Craig Mackenzie said they will allow the department to investigate the possible root cause of the matter.

“This decision to put on hold the process has not been taken lightly, as we did not wish to set a precedent in which serious misconduct potentially goes unpunished.

“However, College welcomes and fully supports the department’s decision to delve deeper into the matter and we condemn in the strongest terms all and any form of misconduct and discrimination,” Mackenzie said.

Although the disciplinary process against the three pupils has been put on hold following a meeting with the department on Monday, the SGB said it still viewed their actions as a breach of both the SA Schools Act and the school’s Code of Conduct.

“The South African Schools Act 84 of 1996 prohibits everyone, including pupils, from engaging in party-political activities outside of the curriculum, on school premises and during school hours.

“Further, the school’s Code of Conduct requires pupils to abide by certain rules with regard to the use of social media. It was therefore concerning to learn that senior pupils of the school chose to breach these codes and use social media as a platform to share their opinions without taking into account the consequences of such actions.

“Much has been said about the constitutional rights of the learners and how these rights may find application in this matter.

“Although the school acknowledges these rights and respects them, it is important for all the members of our school community and the public to realise that a school governing body and a disciplinary tribunal held in terms of the Schools Act does not have the authority to declare any provision in any act of Parliament unconstitutional.

“The Schools Act, as it currently stands, prohibits party-political activities on a school campus during school hours. Although we view the boys’ actions as falling within the ambit of this prohibition, we respect that a disciplinary tribunal may not.”

He said the headmaster had informed the Education Department on the same day the incident took place.

“A positive meeting was held on Monday with all parties agreeing that the main priority would be to minimise disruption to the boys’ preparation for their final examinations. The department acknowledged that the pupils’ alleged misconduct was serious.”

Mackenzie said the governing body was aware of the broader national debate and sensitivities around political views, race, identity and freedom of expression and association in the country at the current time.

“The school fully respect all pupils’ rights to hold their own opinions. To encourage debate and freedom of expression, Maritzburg College has several active and robust school programmes in place that support and strengthen healthy social awareness engagement, in suitably supervised school structures and forums.”

Mackenzie added that the school acknowledges that the lessons learnt from this experience must be taken into account.

He said the school was committed to proactively engage with the complex and emotionally charged issues that have emerged recently.

“We accept that if there are areas where we can improve, we embrace the opportunity to do so.

“The world is in a state of flux. Growth, learning and adapting to this ever-changing landscape mean that we need to be open to change, acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses and have the courage to take steps to improve ourselves — in the interest of maintaining our exceptional standards of education and development of our boys.”

Read more on:    maritzburg college  |  pietermaritzburg  |  racism at schools

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