» Watchdog Media Monitoring Africa approached pupils in a former Model C school in Johannesburg grappling with issues of racism. The anonymity of the children involved has been maintained to avoid any negative reprisals. The Children’s News Agency is an initiative by the agency that aims to enhance the participation and voices of children in South African media. The project gives children the skills to contribute to national discourse through journalism.
A white pupil at a former Model C School, I observed how on August 26, black students of Pretoria High School for Girls took a stand and held a silent march to protest against their school’s racist policies. It is now clear that this protest is more than just policies, but about the racist culture prevalent in many schools.
Since the protest began, more students have spoken out about various racist incidents that they have experienced, including at my own school. Many say they are too scared to speak out against these incidents because they either feel as if they cannot trust those who are in authority or that even if they speak out, nothing will be done. It seems that pupils are, in fact, not being represented by the school’s representative council of learners because the council is merely used to convey the teachers’ ideals.
Although many students across South Africa have been supportive towards the pupils of Pretoria Girls High, many white students are still ignorant and have turned a blind eye towards the issue of racism. These students do not see why this event has such a major effect on our society or why they should care about it as “this does not affect them”.
Many articles are also only addressing the issue of the Pretoria Girls High code of conduct but not even considering other schools, including boys’ schools. Boys of colour are being told that their hair must be cut a certain way or length but there are no rules about hair that are in place for white pupils.
I think that it is time that we educate ourselves and fellow peers about the issue of racism and the fact that we are all brothers and sisters and we should support each other, regardless of our race.
Students should be allowed to express themselves through their culture and race as that is a part of their identities. As students, we must follow in footsteps of Zulaikha Patel and take a stand against racism in schools as no one should have to sacrifice their identities in order to conform to someone else’s ideals.