Danville Park Girls' High: KZN education department to probe racism allegations

  • Danville Park Girls' High School is facing allegations of racism by former and current pupils.
  • Pupils from the school allege that pupils are treated differently based on their race.
  • The education department says it will work with the SA Human Rights Commission and educate all parties involved.

The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Basic Education says it is aware of allegations of racism at Danville Park Girls' High School and will be establishing an independent investigation into it.

The department says this is in the wake of allegations by former and current pupils who claim they have experienced institutionalised racism and discrimination at the school.

A petition has also been started calling for an end to racism at the school.

By Monday, the petition, which was launched a week ago, had received 661 of its 1 000 aimed for signatures.

READ | St Anne's alumni also detail experiences of bigotry, racism in public letter

A former pupil at the school, *Sheila May, reached out to News24 saying she was working with current pupils and various others to try and get the school to be held accountable for racism.

May said she had also received messages from current pupils that the principal, Linda Scholtz, held a meeting with them and said she would be taking legal action if they "named and shamed who has been racist" and that the school would not be speaking out on the Black Lives Matter movement because it is "too political".

The principal also sent e-mails to pupils saying the school would engage in a human rights exercise because "ALL LIVES MATTER".

In a screenshot sent to the pupils, which News24 has seen, Scholtz informs that there were a number of girls sending her e-mails with quotes and links without affording her the respect to greet.

School apologises

"Please can you get the message to them that I will not respond to such e-mails," she says in the e-mail.

May, who matriculated in 2018, alleged that black pupils at the school would always get harsher punishments and were called derogatory names such as "monkeys".

She added that the school's hair policy was also problematic and that their hair was measured by a ruler.

"Our braids had to be small. Afrikaans teachers did not like black students at all. They would shout at us for speaking our language. Current learners don't know what to do because the school is not taking action they need to take.

"You see schools like Durban Girls High taking action and Danville has been doing a delay tactic," she said.

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On Saturday, the school released a statement on its Facebook page, saying it is against any form of racism and that it was devastating to see allegations against it surfacing on social media.

"These allegations are being taken seriously and will be investigated thoroughly. Thank you to those who have come forward and lent their voices in this regard," the statement read.

It also encouraged pupils who have experienced forms of discrimination at the school to contact the school, adding that it acknowledged the pain that racism causes – and that pupils were hurting.

"If we or any member of our staff have caused any of our learners – past and present – pain in the form of racist conduct in any form, we apologise unreservedly."

Department to work with Human Rights Commission

On Monday, News24 reached out to Scholtz, who said the school was aware of the allegations and that the department was now commenting on the matter.

KZN Department of Education spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said the department would probe the allegations and if they were found to be true, the school would be placed into a programme to assist all parties involved.

He said the same approach used at Durban Girls' College where there were also allegations of racism, would be used for Danville High. The department would also be working with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and other organisations in dealing with the matter.

"When it comes to race, it is not only the victim that suffers but the perpetrator in the long run gets isolated by the society when he or she is not educated around the issue of racism.

"It could be former girls who did that, but we have got a duty of incoming girls in that school to desist from this type of practice," Mahlambi said.

Another KZN school, Durban Girls' High, was also in the spotlight last week as pupils detailed their accounts of institutionalised racism, IOL reported.

The allegations also led to the department intervening and initiating a task team.

*Sheila May is not her real name.

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