Schooling race relations

SO a black pupil in a school in Jan Kempdorp in the Northern Cape, SA, was sodomised by a group of six white pupils ranging in ages from 14 to 16. The incident took place on Sunday at the school hostels.

Smeared in what appears to be a white cream, the boy was tied to a steel frame bed and a broom was shoved up his rectum.

As if the act itself it was not gruesome enough, the students went on to film it. The victim had recently enrolled in Grade 12.

Others call it an initiation rite. I call it a blatant display of racism. I doubt there are any white students in that school who were initiated in this perverse and barbaric way.

So often in South Africa you hear of dreadful and malicious acts of racism in higher institutions of learning which I tackled in a previous article.

However, it would appear that racism is equally rampant in both primary and secondary institutions of learning.

Recently 30 parents flagged the segregation policies of Curro Foundation School in Pretoria where children were being classed according to colour. Curro Holdings has 42 schools nationwide and over 136 000 students enrolled.

The school, however, denied the racism allegations and asserted that kids were being separated on the basis of language as opposed to colour.

Apparently in that school there were parents who wanted their children taught in Afrikaans and others who opted to be taught in English, hence, the delineation on those grounds.

In which other schools do you see the curriculum being delivered in Xhosa or Zulu? If languages are going to be used as a tool of discrimination then they should be removed entirely.

Essentially whether you use skin colour or language you achieve the desired end-result of racial segregation. You could even go further and use income. Take Oprah Winfrey’s academy for instance.

It purports not to discriminate on the basis of colour, race or ethnic origin. Yet its admission policy clearly states that only children from households with a combined income of R8 000 will be eligible for admission.

Clearly this will by default exclude a lot of children from white households and as such the demographics of the school will be skewed towards one racial group.

At the other end of the spectrum you have the crème de la crème of private schools with fees in excess of R140 000 per annum. There will be a handful of black children at these schools, mostly by-products of your BEE (black economic empowerment) spawn and other economically-emancipated. Once again you will have achieved racial segregation on the basis of income.

Schools have become breeding grounds for racist behaviour. They school them young so that by the time children are in tertiary institutions this behaviour is deeply entrenched in them. No one is born racist, it’s a learned behaviour the same way you would learn to read or write.

For the greatest part I think as children we don’t see colour. I know this is true because I was a product of private school education back in the ’80s.

I will attest to never having experienced racism in school during my primary years. There were probably five black kids in a class of 20. So maybe we just blended with the woodwork.

However, I never had that conversation about being black with my parents. If anything I did not think much of my blackness. Nothing set us apart from the white and Indian children except that maybe they had long flowing hair while we had kinky afros.

We played without a second thought to the colour of another child’s skin. If anything, we discriminated on the basis of a kid being fat and ungainly.

It was only when I moved to high school where suddenly colour was an issue. This is probably where I experienced and confronted racism. There was the us and them divide.

Even in the classrooms there was a distinct divide between black kids and white kids. It was not imposed but played itself out almost naturally. Having a white friend was an oddity, something that stood out and could be pointed out.

Try as we may we will never eradicate discrimination in schools. The problem of racism cannot be curtailed by policy and regulation.

We need to unlearn racist tendencies from an early age. It all starts in the mind.

Sukoluhle Nyathi is the author of the novel The Polygamist. You can follow her on Twitter @SueNyathi

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