GHS old girls speak up

2017-06-14 13:45
Former GHS pupil Dr Sarah Dlamini ... ‘Part of the problems we are experiencing about race are because we do not care enough’. INSET: Former GHS pupil Leann Reid.

Former GHS pupil Dr Sarah Dlamini ... ‘Part of the problems we are experiencing about race are because we do not care enough’. INSET: Former GHS pupil Leann Reid. (Ian Carbutt/Supplied )

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A Pietermaritzburg Girls’ High (GHS) old girl has called for deeper conversations about race following an alleged incident of racism at the school.

Speaking to The Witness, medical doctor Sarah Dlamini said that if society was committed to ending racism, attitudes needed to change. “Part of the problems we are experiencing about race are because we do not care enough. We look at the way these girls are responding and it’s easy to downplay black pain in the moment because we want to sweep it under the carpet and pretend it’s not an issue. Because how can racism still be such a huge problem?”

She said it was important to remember that people were not just responding to this particular incident. “Racism is something you can’t deny. A young girl [allegedly] using such dirty slurs that are recorded, you can’t deny it. Part of the pain is reacting to everyday low-key racism that we all experience and the violence that is associated with that.”

Dlamini said although this incident had surfaced it was unfair to say that racism defines Pietermaritzburg Girls’ High.

“Racism still defines our society. We still live divided lives and there are very few people that are willing to have the difficult conversations and address their own prejudices and racialised attitudes.”

She said the uproar about the school was important because it could make people re-evaluate their attitudes.

“The furore about what this girl did and what the school did or didn’t do is important because we need to have the conversations that are difficult to have.”

Looking back at her schooling at GHS between 1996 and 2000, she said there were no incidents of blatant discrimination.

“That however doesn’t mean that other people didn’t experience racism because deciding if the school is racist takes away from the [black] pupils who had positive experiences at the school. If you say there was no racism you also take away from the girls who may have experienced it.”

She said she observed racist attitudes and the use of racial remarks.

“Students and teachers alike said things that are to me not acceptable in terms of portraying a non-racist attitude of the heart.”

Another old girl, Leanne Reid, who now runs a non-profit organisation in Cape Town, said a different conversation should be had to address racism.

“What was more shocking was the outbreak on Facebook and the responses of the girls on the page. It was a pretty standard response that South Africans have where whites come in very defensive because we feel guilty and I don’t think that is the necessary start to take. I think we should be more open-minded and listen and try and put ourselves in other people’s shoes.”

Reid agreed with Dlamini that people’s attitudes needed to change to fight the scourge of racism.

“I think it starts in our homes. It shocks me that a child in this day and age can use racial terms. As parents we have a responsibility to educate our children on race and role modelling that is not racial. We also need to look at how we are all addressing transformation.”

Efforts to contact the school’s SGB were unsuccessful on Tuesday.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  racism at schools

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