Top Cape Town boys’ high school, South African College Schools (SACS), is the latest SA school to be rocked by claims of institutionalised racism and discrimination.
A group of pupils from five matric classes dating as far back as 1997, is calling for the school government body (SGB) to be disbanded over what they said was ongoing discrimination since South Africa’s legal emancipation nearly 27 years ago.
The group of former matrics, calling themselves SACS Anti-Discrimination Collective, said in a statement: “It is also evident at other prestigious former Model C schools as expressed by current learners and other ex-students. The Black Lives Matter movement has brought institutional racism to the fore. No longer will it be something that is dealt with behind closed doors and purely managed by these institutions.”
This comes after multiple former Model C schools were hit by similar claims from a number of past pupils across the country.
In this case at SACS, the group comprises pupils from SACS’ matric classes of 1997, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.
In a media release, they laid bare what, in their view, was a culture of discrimination at the school that allegedly targeted mixed race pupils, lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people and the Muslim community.
‘Products of rape’
Terms such as “h**not”, “k**fir”, “m*ffies” and “products of rape” were used to describe certain groups of people, the group alleged.
Anti-Discrimination Collective spokesperson Alexander McLeod said: “At SACS, the discrimination has ranged from mixed-heritage individuals being called “h**not”, others called “k**fir”, individuals from LGBTQIA+ groups named “m*ffies”, victims being beaten when confronting racists, mixed-heritage individuals being mocked as “products of rape”, Islamophobic sentiments, a cafeteria being made non-halaal after not consulting the SACS Muslim community, to a plaque put up honoring SACS Old Boys who fought in wars that occurred after World War 2.
“However, nothing to commemorate the people who fought in the South African liberation struggle is displayed at the school. This list goes on…”
The collective is calling for the current SACS SGB to be disbanded for failing to tackle the outcries, said McLeod.
Chairperson of the SACS SGB and University of Cape Town medicine lecturer, Dr Kerrin Begg, admitted the school had failed the pupils.
“SACS High School is a reflection of the society in which we live, and is therefore not immune to the challenges relating to institutional and societal discrimination. Our school must always strive for what is just, fair and equitable. SACS must be a school where young men of any race or sexual orientation feel welcome, are nurtured and developed to enable them to reach their full potential.
“The hurt voiced by many past and current learners highlights systemic failures on the part of the school in fulfilling this objective. SACS must be the safe space that is the catalyst for change. The leadership of our school commits itself wholeheartedly to this.”
McLeod added: “The current SGB failed to uphold an agreement for the establishment of a multi-stakeholder committee made up of current parents, learners, educators and old boys to address discrimination. The agreement was made between Mr Mutuma who is an SGB member, Mr Grant, the SACS High School principal and the collective at a meeting held on 20 June 2020.”
He added: “The current SGB has failed in addressing ongoing discrimination and must be held accountable and disbanded with immediate effect. Early elections for a new untainted SGB must commence so that this new SGB may proceed with an open, fair, transparent and inclusive process to establish a committee that will be tasked with addressing the ongoing discrimination and lack of transformation at the school.”
Begg said the allegations were the subject of an ongoing investigation by an independent task team established by SACS, adding that the work of the task team commenced in mid-July and was expected to be concluded by the end of August.
“SACS commits to working with the task team in an open and transparent manner,” said Begg.
She also said the task team comprised Dr Kenneth Wyne Mutuma, chairperson of the SGB disciplinary sub-committee and Mr Thapelo Sotsela Mahlangu, an independent external consultant with expertise in diversity dialogues and social cohesion.