The problems underlying the disruption of teaching and learning at the beleaguered Klipspruit West Secondary School go deeper than what they seem on the surface. This became clear yesterday when residents made submissions to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) hearings held at JD Opperman Hall in Eldorado Park.
The hearings are being held as part of interventions by Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) to address the perceived racism behind the disruption of teaching and learning at the school in July. The hearings also seek to examine how the racist incidents occur, what their underlying causes are and more importantly the impact racism is having on an effective learning and teaching environment.
The first person to make a submission was Maureen Moremi, a teacher at a local Eldoraigne High School. She said black teachers at the school experience racism from school management. She said the environment at the school is such that the prospects for black teachers to grow and get promotions are very slim. Asked if she experienced the same treatment from the community, learners and parents, Moremi said surprisingly she gets on well with them. She said the racist attitude was confined only to the upper echelons of the school management. Her assertion that the school practises racism targeted at black teachers drew murmurs of disapproval from the predominantly elderly audience.
Moremi was followed by a Mrs Matthews who said she used to be a school governing body member at Klispruit West Secondary. In her submission, she denied there were disruptions at the school as it was only black teachers who stayed away while their coloured counterparts continued teaching.
“They decided to embark on go-slow instead of teaching. Our children were suffering at the hands of Black teachers and what more when a black principal is appointed. Some of them called our children ‘coloured bastards’. Things will get worse,” Matthews said to rousing applause.
She said she strongly believed that a coloured teacher was suitable for the position. Asked if this was not consistent with a racist attitude, she emphatically denied it, saying this is how she and the community feel, a remark that drew another round of applause. She said she could not be racist because she is married to a black man.
Charmaine Arendse, an ex-teacher, told the commission that the blame for what happened at Klipspruit West High School should be put squarely at the door of GDE. “They failed us; we have been neglected as Eldorado Park community. MEC Panyaza Lesufi only comes when there is a crisis,” said Arendse.
She said most schools in the area experienced a number of challenges such as; over-crowding, lack of resources and other related social ills. “And the department never attends to them,” she said.
The hearings then took a political tone when representatives of the Patriots of Equality made their submission. The organisation gained prominence during the stand-off at Klipspruit West Secondary School when they mobilised residents as they felt the Coloured community was marginalised. Stanley Jacobs and Jackie Mthombeni, the organisation’s general secretary, made joint submissions.
Jacobs’ submission focused on the role of the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) members at the school. He said the government was afraid to act against the union even when there was evidence they engaged in disruptive activities. “They do as they please and nothing happens to them. When is the government going ever going to act against them? That is the question we are asking, said Jacobs. He said members of the union were behind the disruptions of learning and teaching at the school.
“They do as they please and nothing happens to them. When is the government ever going to act against them? That is the question we are asking”, said Jacobs. He said members of the union were behind the disruptions of learning and teaching at the school.
Mthombeni told the hearing that they wanted to dispel the notion that they were racist because of their opposition to the appointment of a black principal at the school.
“For the record, we didn’t oppose the appointment of a black person, what we were against was the way the appointment process was handled. We wanted the best. The lady who was appointed came third in terms of scoring. But she was appointed regardless and we later discovered she got the job because she is believed to be a friend to one of the Sadtu members,” said Mthombeni. She said this explained the reason the union encouraged its members at the school to refuse to teach.
Hearings continue on Thursday at the City of Johannesburg Council Chambers, 158 Civic Boulevard, Braamfontein, where Lesufi and the senior provincial officials are expected to make submissions.