The CRL Rights Commission will approach the Gauteng department of education to find out why it has not taken action against a Boksburg school accused of discriminating against a 15-year-old pupil who recently became a traditional healer (sangoma).
According to commissioner Sheila Khama, the school’s alleged conduct was in contravention of the Schools Act. It is accused of trying to coerce the pupil to cover up or remove her hair beads, as they were not part of school uniform.
Khama explained that, according to the guidelines stipulated in the act, codes of conduct must be aligned with the constitution.
This included the right to religious and cultural identity.
“School codes of conduct also need to contain realistic boundaries and a waiver that allows for certain exemptions,” she said.
The child allegedly suffered bullying and name calling at the hands of the principal and teachers at Sunward Park High School. She claimed that school staff accused her of being possessed by demons and she was told people were afraid she would “infect” other pupils with her “possession”.
Her father said: “The school has manipulated the story, denying wrongdoing. They have convinced parents and students that my child pretended everything when she was verbally attacked by more than three senior teachers in the principal’s office.”
He said if the school did not apologise, he would mobilise a “total shutdown of the school” in protest.
Khama spoke of the prevalence of Christian doctrine taking precedence over constitutional rights in schools, despite the advent of constitutional democracy. “Since 1994 South Africa has had its own ‘bible’, which is the constitution of the land.
“… freedom of religion and cultural identity is for all of us, that is what … guarantees that pupil’s fundamental rights which include those of religious and cultural expression and human dignity.”
School district manager Benny Louw said he was aware of the dispute, but referred The Citizen’s questions to education executive committee member Panyaza Lesufi, who dod not respond to numerous queries over two weeks.