This school is the ‘home of racism’

A top performing school has been rocked by allegations of systematic racial abuse of black learners by their fellow white pupils and teachers dating back at least five years.

One of the black pupils, deputy head girl Celeste Diale, has compiled a report of alleged racial abuse at the Tom Naudé Technical High School in Polokwane, Limpopo.

She alleges that a black learner at the school, which has consistently been one of the top performers in the matric examinations, was allegedly ordered by school principal Ferdie Liddle to make baboon sounds as punishment for misbehaviour “because he looked like one”.

A white learner allegedly protested against Diale being placed in front of him during a school music practice session, saying: “A black person cannot stand in front of me. Since when do shadows stand in front?”

Black people at the school were treated like second-class citizens and occasionally referred to as “k*****s” by white pupils, parents and teachers while the school turned a blind eye, according to two learners, three black employees and two former security guards at the school.

According to the 22-page report compiled by Diale and handed over to the Limpopo Education Department (LED), The Human Rights Commission (HRC) and Childline on April 8, the school has perpetuated racism against black learners since 2006.

Titled “Camouflaged behaviour: High School with legal bullying … from the principal and his posse”, the report alleges, among other things, that:

» In 2007, Liddle allegedly forced a black pupil to make sounds like a baboon. Diale wrote: “The principal looked at him, giggled and then told the learner he looked like a baboon and … to sound like one too … the learner refused vehemently but the principal forced him.”

» Three black pupils sitting together in a bus on their way from a school trip were allegedly told by a white pupil that the difference between a black bench and a black man was that “the black bench can support a family of three and a black man can’t”.

» After storming out of a classsroom and crying, following a racial tantrum by a fellow pupil, a teacher allegedly said: “Celeste, there is nothing you can do about the fact that you are black.”

» When black learners sang their favourite Zulu gospel song at a school prayer held for Liddle’s grandson, who was in a coma, a white learner allegedly complained: “Celeste, is this a k****r thing or what? If it is, then make it stop.” Liddle senior had earlier allegedly threatened to act against “striking” black pupils who had sung the same song.

» Language was used as a code to separate black and white learners according to “Afrikaans-speaking (white)” learners and “English-speaking (black).”

Three employees and two pupils corroborated Diale’s allegations.

One of the them said: “This is the home of racism. We just work because we have no choice. We are suffering here. If you complain, they tell you the gates are open and you are free to leave.”

According to Diale’s report, she acted against her own school “because of the power invested in me” to save those who had dreamed of “freedom” at the school, “the right to a school, not a prison”.

Liddle did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Landa Koekemoer, Tom Naudé School Governing Body spokesperson, said City Press’s questions had been forwarded to the school’s attorneys.

Dieketseng Diale, Celeste’s mother, said she would comment after receiving a report from the authorities “early next week”.

Provincial education department spokesperson Pat Kgomo said they were still awaiting a report from a task team appointed two weeks ago to probe the allegations.

“But should these allegations be found to be true, the department won’t hesitate to take action against anybody who is implicated,” said Kgomo, adding that sanctions would depend on the outcome of the disciplinary hearings.

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