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KwaZulu-Natal Schools Need Urgent Intervention Over Racism, Sex Abuse Revelations

It's vital that the KZN Department of Basic Education launches a review programme or investigation team.

13/09/2017 03:59 SAST | Updated 13/09/2017 06:42 SAST
Roots Collection/ Getty Images/ Gallo Images

On the 12 September 2017, South Africans woke up to learn about the shocking stories involving young South African learners being sexually and physically assaulted in schools in KwaZulu-Natal. These grotesque actions were captured on cameras on cellular devices and were subsequently posted online and went viral.

As a result, the teachers and principal involved in these actions are going to be suspended by the KZN Department of Basic Education. However, these recent events are not isolated. In fact, various acts of physical assault, sexual assault and racism have been taking place in schools in Kwa-Zulu Natal for quite some time. There is no doubt that schools in Kwa-Zulu Natal, both public and private alike, need to be investigated and reviewed.

If we are to take a legal approach to these matters, we only have to pick up a copy of the Constitution to see how repulsive, vulgar and unlawful these recent events have been in schools in KZN. The Bill of Rights, that being chapter two of our Constitution, states that each human being has the right to human dignity, right to freedom and security from all forms of violence and the right to equality, which essentially protects people from hate speech and discrimination.

Despite these rights, which have been adopted by most in South Africa as essential principles and moral codes that should be upheld in our society, certain schools in South Africa, in KZN in particular, have disregarded these basic human rights and are, in fact, harming and violating the human dignity and lives of young students.

With regards to racism in Kwa-Zulu Natal, white supremacy, ignorance and hate speech have recently been exposed on social media and consequently initiated conversations about our teachers, our basic education syllabus and the codes of ethic and conduct that are adopted and used in these educational institutions.

Not only are teachers and staff of these schools perpetuating a racist, anti-black agenda, but so have white students too. The sad reality is that these racial incidents often take place and it has only been the exposure on social media that has forced the issue to become a topic of discussion and an issue that we need to solve.

It is paramount that we create a syllabus in a subject such as Life Orientation that educates students properly on social injustices such as colonialism, apartheid, white supremacy, homophobia and patriarchy.

In a recent piece for HuffPost SA, I strongly criticised schools for hiding and/or defending racist incidents and I encouraged all South Africans to speak out about racism in our institutions. Furthermore, I still believe it is paramount that we create a syllabus in a subject such as Life Orientation that educates students properly on social injustices such as colonialism, apartheid, white supremacy, homophobia and patriarchy and makes them socially and morally aware.

When it comes to the cases of physical and sexual assault in schools, I believe it is extremely concerning and outrageous that these inhumane activities are taking place in our schools which are supposed to be safe learning environments for students where they are supposed to grow and develop and essentially become the next leaders in South Africa.

The recent videos of students being assaulted are sadly not new. In fact, stories of corporal punishment and rape have been reported before in KZN over the years.

Overall, it is vital that the KZN department of basic education launches a review programme or investigation team, and include leaders from various political parties and organisations, to investigate the schools throughout Kwa-Zulu Natal, especially those that are rumoured or known to be problematic in terms of discrimination and unlawful behaviour.

The norm should not be that students have to worry about being a target of hate speech or violence in their learning environment. Instead, the norm should be that students can go to a safe, positive learning environment where they can grow, develop and become the leaders that we need to take South Africa forward.