ANC demands action over claims of racism at Victoria Park
The allegations of racism at Victoria Park High School must be attended to with the urgency they deserve.
This was the sentiment expressed by ANC Nelson Mandela Bay regional co-ordinator Luyolo Nqakula on Wednesday after a meeting with school principal Michael Vermaak.
On Tuesday, claims of racism and cultural insensitivity at the Walmer school triggered a protest by black grade 12 pupils that brought classes to a halt.
About 50 present and former pupils and some parents took part in the protest outside the school’s gates, which was triggered by a remark reportedly made by a white teacher last week.
In a statement, ANC regional spokesperson JP Pretorius said the purpose of the visit was to stand in solidarity with the pupils to ensure the removal of alleged racial abuse at the institution.
“The co-ordinator then used the opportunity to meet the school principal, Mr Vermaak, to make it clear to him that we would not tolerate racism in our schools and to get a report of the action that the institution would be taking to outroot racism.
“In the meeting, the ANC expressed its dissatisfaction with the fact that teaching and learning was said to have resumed with no immediate action taken against those who are alleged to be racially abusive.
“We also fully appreciate the hostility of the environment and the effect it has on the learners who are at loggerheads with alleged racist staff members,” Pretorius said.
On Tuesday, the protesting matric pupils said a teacher had asked a black colleague to separate a group of black pupils during a break to maintain social distancing protocols because of the coronavirus.
“Our interest is in the immediate creation of a conducive teaching and learning environment in which learners can pursue their academics without fear, intimidation, victimisation and prejudice.
“We strongly believe that this cannot be the case when learners are subjected to the same educators who have allegedly been consistently levelling racial abuse towards them,” Pretorius said.
Pretorius said Vermaak committed that an urgent meeting would be convened to discuss the contents of the memorandum of demands that was submitted by the pupils on Tuesday.
The meeting will include the education department, the student governing body and parents.
Pretorius said the ANC made it clear that its interest was the immediate summary suspension of those who were accused of racism to give them time to prepare their defence.
“We have also informed the principal that we would approach the MEC for basic education in the Eastern Cape to intervene in the event that the resolutions of today’s meeting are unsatisfactory,” he said.
Education department spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima confirmed a rapid response report was submitted to the department.
“The district is taking over because the matter is bigger than the school and we’ve already identified people to facilitate social cohesion at the school.
“As government we have zero tolerance when it comes to racism,” Mtima said.
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