Pretoria – Tensions over the race issues and the lack of transformation at Cornwall Hill College have continued to boil over, with further protests taking place at the school, this time by white youth organisations.
The Bittereinders youth groups, who protested at the school on Friday, could be seen with placards that read, “Discipline is not discrimination”, “Leave politics out of our schools” and “Unhappy? build your own schools”. The group went further and posted a video on their Facebook page, recorded at the Voortrekker Monument by Devon Hofmeyr, who said they were not against the black parents at the school protesting about racism but they did have a problem with some of the messages written on the parents’ boards displayed.
“What concerned us the most was one sign that said: ‘We demand black teachers.’ We want to make it clear to that person that you will demand absolutely nothing from the same people who taught your ancestors how to read and write,” Hofmeyr said.
“You will respect the teachers in that school, you will abide by the school rules and you will not jeopardise any other student in that school. The time for demanding is over, you cannot demand any more; you have to earn what you want.”
Hofmeyr added in the video that they would ensure there was “respect” at schools. Social media did not take too kindly to the pictures of the members and the video released, with many users voicing their unhappiness over them, and calling for racism to end.
In the meantime, the school said the initial protest by parents and learners set an important example for the community, the children, parents and staff on the importance of freedom of speech and association, and of respecting those with different opinions and views.
Leon Kunneke, the school’s principal, said the events on Monday, when parents and learners protested, served as an awakening at the school, and he believed it signalled hope in their collective work to genuinely transform the school.
He urged learners, staff and parents to be careful about their actions and the language they used, especially on social media, to ensure that they did not move backwards or apart.
And although the school admitted it had indeed erred in delaying transformation, Kunneke said they remained firm in their commitment to create a culture of diversity, inclusivity and belonging at all levels of the school.
“We pledge to work tirelessly to eradicate racism and all forms of discrimination in the classrooms, on the playgrounds, in our boarding houses, and anywhere it rears its evil head,” Kunneke said.
He said they had enlisted the services of Lovelyn Nwadeyi, an internationally recognised social justice voice and a well-known facilitator of interventions aimed explicitly at ending discrimination in the education sector. Kunneke said the body would begin work today.
Regarding other issues raised by parents, Kunneke said the school would endeavour to set out and implement a transparent, inclusive, and participative process for the school’s transformation, which would allow for meaningful participation by all members of the school.
A parent said they were pleased that after the outbursts by the youth group, the majority of learners, white and black, had expressed their unhappiness with the views expressed by the group and were discussing how to take a stand against them.