NEWS
04/12/2017 16:35 SAST | Updated 04/12/2017 16:36 SAST

Selborne College Scandal: What It Reveals About Our Born-Frees

How could they not understand the offence of using an image of Hector Pieterson for a matric invite?

www.selborne.co.za

Analysis

A scandal at Selborne College in East London, when a 2017 matric invitation used a photo of a dying Hector Pieterson during the 1976 Soweto uprising and replaced it with the school blazer, has caused widespead outrage.

In the altered picture used for an invitation, the anguished faces of Mbuyisa Makhubu and Antoinette Sithole are replaced with the faces of dogs.

It has raised questions about just how the young people involved could not have realised the implications of using and desecrating such a famous anti-apartheid image. Is such ignorance common among born-frees?

The pupil responsible for the artwork as well as the college's school governing body have apologised.

The general secretary of Equal Education (EE), Tshepo Motsepe, told HuffPost SA that the outlook, knowledge and perspective of millennials on apartheid depended to a large extent on their backgrounds.

Those whom apartheid served constantly think that their job in society is to maintain what apartheid gave them.

"Which millennials? Which backgrounds do they come from and which schools do they go to?" he said. "Those who go to dysfunctional schools understand that [their situations] it is a result of history, for them they want to change the card that life has dealt them."

Motsepe added: "Those whom apartheid served constantly think that their job in society is to maintain what apartheid gave them, to the detriment of larger numbers of people".

Motsepe said there must be a bigger focus on Selborne College and the subliminal messages that could be relayed to pupils through its teaching methods.

"What this picture depicts is the school culture which teaches history in a particular way. They are comparing the events of June 16, 1976 with being in school for 12 years," he said.

"You can now compare their pain, their suffering and their humiliation to me or you experiencing, let's say, a late flight and then we say it was just like apartheid. That is what Selborne teaches," Motsepe continued.

Read: Selborne Pupil Responsible For Desecrating Historical Hector Pieterson Photo Responds

Curator of exhibitions and education at the Apartheid Museum, Emelia Potenza, said the conduct by the Selborne College student was "completely unacceptable".

What this picture depicts is the school culture which teaches history in a particular way.

According to Potenza, it reveals the crucial importance for young children to be educated about South Africa's background and the realities of apartheid.

"Young people should understand the complexity of South African history. It is impossible to make sense of the present without looking at the past," she said.

Although South Africa had overcome the oppressive apartheid regime, the biggest mistake people made was thinking that "we are now one big family". "It is naive and unreal," said Potenza.

She believes there should be some sort of intervention at Selborne College looking into why no one detected that the artwork was problematic.

"There should be some sort of diversity training, even if it is made compulsory during school holidays," she said.

The Selborne College pupil responsible for the artwork on Saturday said the changes he made to the original picture were not meant to depict any "racism or prejudice".

The unnamed pupil said he believed he was misunderstood.