A number of past and current pupils from St Anne’s Diocesan College have recounted experiences of alleged racism and bigotry while at the school in a document released to the public.
St Anne’s is one of many schools this past week that have seen current and former pupils across the country accuse schools, some teachers and fellow pupils of institutionalised racism.
This following the death of US citizen George Floyd at the hands of police officers, and the subsequent worldwide Black Lives Matter protests that have ensued.
In the public letter titled “Wake Up St Anne’s”, more than 40 girls shared their stories of events they regarded as prejudiced towards them.
According to the girls, this letter, marking multiple experiences, span years, and included stories of hatred, bigotry, discrimination and racism.
They claim these stories have been deliberately ignored and still were.
The experiences shared range from being called baboons by their classmates to teachers telling them black people should get over apartheid.
One former pupil, Grace Masitha, said when they reported complaints about certain teachers to the headmaster, he would acknowledge them, but nothing would come of it.
Headmaster David Arguile said St Anne’s has become aware of the recent accusations of the Old Girls last week.
“Our immediate response as a school was to avoid being defensive or legalistic in our response to those accusations, despite the fact that a number of them are devoid of truth and, in certain instances, defamatory,” he said.
“Rather, we have chosen to use this important opportunity to focus our attention and energy on bringing about further positive change at the college.
“Mr Floyd’s death is proving to be an important catalyst in relation to what is being expressed by our pupils,” Arguile added.
“In the midst of this tragedy, we have a golden opportunity to accelerate, possibly redirect, our St Anne’s transformation journey.
“Prior to me being aware of any criticism from past or current pupils, I had expressed my personal view that we need to make use of this opportunity.”
The school is attempting to reach out to a number of Old Girls who have commented on various social media platforms, and challenged staff members to examine their own behaviour.
SA schools rocked
In the rest of the country, students from former Model C schools in Gauteng, the Western and Eastern Cape as well as KwaZulu-Natal and others have posted their experiences of alleged racism at their schools by teachers and fellow pupils alike.
Pupils at Bishops Diocesan College staged a protest in this regard, compiling a list of demands for the school and calling on it to condemn racism.
It also called on the school’s hair policy to be done away with, for the expansion of isiXhosa and the syllabus to be decolonised.
Wynberg Girls’ High and Herschel Girls’ in Cape Town said they were saddened, and sorry, to hear stories of pain and heartache and would be providing platforms to the girls to speak.
In KZN, Durban Girls’ High pupils also detailed accounts of institutionalised racism, to which the school said it would provide a Conversation Circle platform for pupils to make their voices heard, IOL reported.