Grosvenor pupils 'vindicated', says EFF after panel finds 'systemic racism' at school

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EFF ward councillor Otto Mvumba pictured during KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu's visit to Grosvenor Girls High School and Ohlange High School in Durban on 1 March 2022.
EFF ward councillor Otto Mvumba pictured during KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu's visit to Grosvenor Girls High School and Ohlange High School in Durban on 1 March 2022.
Darren Stewart, Gallo Images
  • The panel probing claims of racism and financial irregularity at Grosvenor High School has confirmed there is evidence to support these allegations. 
  • The school went through a long period of being unsettled as pupils and parents raised issues they said were not being addressed. 
  • The EFF, which supported the protests, says the pupils have been vindicated. 

The EFF welcomed the findings of a panel which confirmed claims of racism at Grosvenor Girls High School in eThekwini. 

The party said it would write to the education department to demand the principal be fired. 

"We are happy that the school kids are vindicated in their cry and that their struggle has not fallen on deaf ears," said EFF eThekwini spokesperson Mazwi Blose. 

READ | Grosvenor Girls' High School principal suspended amid racism showdown

However, the red berets were not happy there was no clarity on principal Linda Jorgensen's precautionary suspension, and wanted her fired. They also planned to report her to the police.

In March, the EFF descended on the school in support of pupils and parents reiterating their complaints in a series of protests that dogged the school.                 

Blose said the party was not surprised by the panel's findings:

We have long warned the ANC government to stop treating unrepentant racist with kid gloves.

In an overview of the findings, released by Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu, the independent panel investigating the complaints confirmed there was evidence of racism, nepotism and financial irregularity at the school. 

It recommended the principal be investigated further and held jointly liable for some of the expenditures that raised a red flag. 

The Bluff-based school boasted a 20% increase in bachelors' passes and a 97% pass rate for the matrics of 2021, but according to claims made in the sporadic protests, this was done with an undercurrent of racism, nepotism and financial irregularities. 

Black pupils said they were being dehumanised, while black parents on the school governing body (SGB) felt they were being treated shabbily by the school since being elected. 

Black pupils also complained they were constantly being picked on about their hair. 

After the panel was appointed, it recommended Jorgensen be placed on preliminary suspension for the duration of the investigation. 

Mshengu said the panel concluded racism at the school was "systematic, structural and that white authority dominates all facets at the school".

"It also found that racism is normalised and that it is second nature at this school, that black people who are learners and employees at the school suffer in an atmosphere of being suppressed, oppressed and of being voiceless."

Comment from the school was not immediately available due to it being school holidays.

Mshengu also singled out these complaints:

  • The principal spoke disparagingly of "township schools" and shouted at pupils that Grosvenor Girls High "is not a township school, and they must go back to these township schools";
  • Teachers were told to recruit more white pupils "because the school belongs to white learners".

The team recommended a further forensic investigation and found a lack of cooperation between the SGB, principal and school management team. 

The panel found maladministration in the areas for which the principal, deputy principal, and the head of department, Mrs Birjraj, were accountable. 

The panel alleged irregular procurement processes were found, and the principal and deputy usurped the powers of the SGB. 

Birjraj is also alleged to have promoted the irregular procurement of the services of her sister, named only as Mrs Soomaroo.               

Her contract was converted to that of an independent contractor who registered for VAT and invoiced the same as her monthly salary, and also allegedly claimed for hours she did not work.               

According to the school's website, her sister worked in reception.

The panel said a re-employed a woman allegedly misled the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) by saying the SGB constructively dismissed her. The woman is listed as working in the finance department on the school's website.

It recommended all contracts and appointments made by the principal be reviewed and those employed without meeting the requirements of the post they were hired for should be considered for termination of service. 

The agreement between the school and deputy principal's sister should be terminated immediately, as should the woman who allegedly misled the SGB about her CCMA case.

The panel recommended the principal and her deputy be held liable for all funds paid to any employee who would be found to have been employed into a position without meeting basic requirements. 

It also recommended the principal be charged with misconduct for "infractions relating to racism, irregular appointments of employees and financial irregularities".

Mshengu said he would refer the recommendations to the education department's head of department for implementation and directed legal services should lay a complaint against the principal with the SA Human Rights Commission.

The report might also lead to a commission of inquiry into racism in schools in the province. 

"We all have a duty to protect our learners from any forms of racial attitudes and provide them with a better chance to be a generation that will live in a truly non-racial South Africa," added Mshengu.

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