Cape Town – A GROUP of former South African College High School (Sacs) pupils are calling for the school governing body (SGB) to be disbanded for allegedly failing to implement policies to deal with discrimination at the school.
The group of past pupils, calling themselves the Anti-Discrimination Collective, have collected stories from pupils spanning decades, which detail claims of racism, homophobia and religious intolerance at the boys’ high school in Newlands.
This comes in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, which inspired current and past pupils from schools around the Western Cape – and subsequently throughout the country – to accuse schools of allowing racism and discrimination to thrive unchecked.
Spokesman for the collective, Alexander McLeod, said it was concerning to see racism persisting at the school nearly three decades after his own experiences as a pupil of colour there.
“To see that the same thing is happening now as when I started there 27 years ago, is worrying,” McLeod said.
“I was really inspired by the fact that all of these old boys have come forward and voiced their concerns and shared their stories. In the past, when you started to speak up, you were often drowned out and cast aside. Now, I thought there’s so much momentum that now is the right time.”
McLeod said the biggest issue was the lack of policy at the school to deal with instances of discrimination.
He said the code of conduct doesn’t specifically prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and that there are no processes for investigation or disciplinary action after an incident of discrimination.
“There are no policies to deal with this. There’s nothing that allows you to hold the relevant parties accountable because you can’t benchmark it against the policy,” he said.
“The reasons there are no policies in place is that the SGB hasn’t developed them. You can’t point a finger at anyone else. That is their role – governance and accountability. They are the ultimate guardians and custodians.
“We are calling for the SGB to be disbanded because they are ultimately responsible for governance and they have failed to implement any policies.”
Dr Kerrin Begg, chairperson of the Sacs SGB, acknowledged that the school is not immune to the discrimination endemic in society.
“Sacs must be the safe space that is the catalyst for change. The leadership of our school commits itself wholeheartedly to this,” she said.
Begg said in response to the accusations of racism, homophobia and religious discrimination, the school had appointed a task team to investigate and review policy.
However, McLeod said an anonymous online submission process did not constitute a transparent engagement and dialogue with stakeholders.
Bronagh Hammond, spokeswoman for the Western Cape Education Department, said the department had asked all schools to update their codes of conduct to include clauses addressing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender expression.