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Two San Souci Teachers Speak Out Anonymously About Racsim At The School
*The identities of these teachers are known to SA News Blog. We have decided to not disclose their identities in order to protect them from harassment and victmisation.
Cape Town - 4 September 2016
Teacher #1 :
I have debated with myself all day as to whether or not I should mail you, but I believe there are certain things that should be said.
1. This is definitely not the first time these issues have been raised. About 10 years ago a delegation of about a dozen teachers went to NAPTOSA and raised these issues among others, chiefly bullying. It was prompted by the teachers having been told that Pavlov’s dogs were more intelligent (than the teachers) because they could be trained.
2. About 5 years ago there was a ‘whole school evaluation’ in the 4th term. Again a group of senior teachers raised these issues – hair, language policy, intimidation, etc – with the team tasked with evaluating the school. The result for these teachers was effective demotion where it was possible and where it was not, the eventual complaint of insubordination which resulted in a disciplinary hearing of the two teachers and insubordination recorded on their files. All of these teachers were made to ‘pay’ for their ‘disloyalty’.
3. The claim that no teachers challenged these issues but simply carried them out is simply not true. The hair ‘code’ is ridiculous – and it was challenged as such – in a country where many people are affected by HIV/AIDS, rape, discrimination, where some children come to school hungry, etc to be fixated on navy blue – not black – hairbands is ludicrous. I know that does not reflect on the racism inherent in the hair rules, but it is what I remember raising on a number of occasions. The challenges had no effect in changing policies.
4. To my mind, more insidious is the language policy because it denigrates people’s relevance and importance in society. BUT again, this policy was challenged by certain staff members; and for about a year, the official policy (based on sound educational practice) was that while the Language of Instruction is English, SL learners could be assisted to understand by other learners explaining and discussing the particular matter/interpretation/etc in the mother tongue; but, of course, final testing reverts to English. Most educators at the time could not speak isiXhosa, so the plan depended on learners helping each other. This policy lasted a maximum of a year and was replaced by the draconian nothing-but-English-or-Afrikaa
5. The suggestion was made, on numerous occasions, that with the school population what it is, isiXhosa was an obvious subject to offer – the objection was there wasn’t enough demand to enable funding of three language departments.
6. There were challenges and opposition to draconian punishments that were handed out for minor infringements. I could go on and on – numbers of teachers put their careers on the line to try to mitigate the situation, but there is a limit to what one can achieve when faced by a very powerful opponent.
7. The final point I wish to make is a plea that while you expose racism and discrimination and unfair practice, you do not lose sight of the good things that Sans Souci has done – the hundreds of young women (including all the prime movers in this movement) who have been given a sound academic grounding and have been encouraged to explore their ideas, to think critically and creatively and to reach their potential and who were consistently treated with respect by some teachers. There are many, many doctors, OTs, Physios, dentists, engineers, lawyers, businesswomen, teachers, etc, etc, etc who have been helped to achieve these milestones by education, opportunities, encouragement, and so on from the school. Please don’t throw that under the bus with the hair and the language, as iniquitous as they are.
8. I am glad from the depths of my heart that the unfair and bigoted policies have been brought out into the open, but please also work towards a healing and a fair deal for everyone so that it’s not just about destroying, but also about re-building – I think we owe it to the current learners.
Teacher #2 :
To all the pupils and teachers I did not speak up for, I am sorry.
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