It had investigated a complaint by a parent that his two children had complained about a Wilgehof Primary School teacher’s racist attitude towards black pupils at the school in Bloemfontein. The teacher was accused of displaying an old South African flag in his classroom, and a poster depicting black people as monkeys.
“The complainant also alleged that the teacher often refers to black children using the ‘K’-word in front of others in class,” the commission said in its finding.
“In addition, the teacher walked around the class room with a mirror which he will put in front of a black child’s face and asked ‘what do you see?’ When the black child said ‘I do not know, sir,’ the teacher would respond by saying “a baboon…, you see a baboon”.
The commission said most pupils at the school had confirmed that the allegations of name-calling, bullying and racial discrimination were correct. They had also said the teacher administered corporal punishment.
Based on its investigation, the commission found that the teacher’s act of hate speech constituted a clear violation of both the right to equality and the right to human dignity, it said.
Administering corporal punishment was a violation of the SA Schools Act and a violation of the Constitution. The teacher had also exposed pupils to a harmful learning environment, the commission said.
It recommended that the teacher be disciplined under the Employment of Educators Act. It also gave the Free State education department a year to assess and report back on the prevalence of racism in its public schools.
The commission urged the department to develop interventions to foster a rights-based approach to the education environment in all its schools. The department should also probe the conduct of the school principal and review his competence to lead the school, it said.
The school governing body was ordered to give the commission its policy on dealing with racism within 12 months of the finding. The respondents had the right to appeal the SAHRC findings within 45 days, it said.