Lesufi orders investigation into Pretoria High School for Girls

Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi. Picture: Simone Kley
Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi. Picture: Simone Kley

Pretoria - Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi has instituted an investigation at Pretoria High School for Girls to get to the bottom of the issues that resulted in anti-racism protests at the school.

"I'm officially appointing an independent investigation body to investigate all the allegations levelled against certain educators, events of the 26 and 27 [August] and all issues that learners felt border on racism and all related matters," Lesufi told reporters on Monday.

"I'm giving this committee 21 days to conclude their business and to provide a preliminary report. On the basis of that report I will discuss it with the SGB [school governing body] and agree on a way forward."

The decision followed a meeting between the SGB, his office, learners and parents to discuss the issues of racism at the school. Pupils protested against the school's code of conduct which restricted the type of hairstyles black pupils could have.

Lesufi said they were aware that the environment at the school needed immediate intervention in terms of race relations, cultural understanding and the need to promote social cohesion.

"It is within this context that the premier of this province has agreed that a Group of Eminent Persons dealing with social cohesion, and the minister has agreed that a branch that deals with social cohesion, will immediately come to the school," he said.

Clause suspended

Among the resolutions taken at the meeting was a review of the code of conduct of the school, with the clause dealing with hair being under the spotlight.

"After a very intense, robust but crucial discussion we summarised our resolution as part of our request that the element of the code of conduct that deals specifically with hairstyle be suspended immediately and that there will be no learner that will be victimised purely because of their hairstyle until the SGB has finalised a new code of conduct that deals with these issues.

Lesufi said that there would be a new code of conduct that will be workshopped and developed by the SGB in consultation with learners and, there would be "a cessation of hostilities".

"We mean the mini-war that was here is immediately suspended," he said.

Lesufi said it was important for some of the issues to be workshopped and brought to the attention of teachers and some of the learners. He added that the department would also be providing psychological assistance.

The issues raised at the school have also paved the way for the department to revisit all codes of conduct of the schools in the province to address the matter. Lesufi said he did not want a repeat of what happened at the school.

"I'm quiet convinced that I need to elevate this resolution to other schools in the province. I'm of the strong view that some of the issues raised in this school are not in this school alone. I will elevate these issues and I will find a mechanism of dealing with them across the province. That means all the codes of conduct from schools across the province will be immediately under review so that we don't find ourselves in a similar situation in another school," he said.

SGB member James Tubb said they would work closely with all the stakeholders to ensure everybody feels included in the school.

"It is actually very sad for me to realise that our awareness is not where it should be and we will work with the MEC to correct that and to make this a safe environment for everybody like we thought it was initially," said Tubb.

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