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Media Release

21 September, 2007

Conclusion of investigations into alleged racial incident at Langenhoven Gymnasium - Joint statement by Western Cape Education MEC Cameron Dugmore and the Langenhoven Gymnasium Governing Body

Earlier this year the Langenhoven Gymnasium was faced with an allegation of a racist incident at the school, involving a much-publicized fight between two boys, which was recorded on cellphone cameras and led to some further allegations.

Task Team headed by the Western Cape Education Department's (WCED) Deputy Director-General Mr John Lyners investigated the incident and other related matters, during which the Human Rights Commission (HRC) had observer status.

The Task Team also included Chief Director for Rural schools, Ms Sindi Shayi, as well as Mr Clifton Frolick, Director of the Breederiver/Overberg EMDC, Mr Anton Gunther, Circuit Manager and Mr L Tait, Community Leader and former Rector of the South Cape College of Education.

In terms of the major findings, we both agree as follows:

1. In terms of the specific incident regarding the fight, the investigation indicates that, although the fight was instigated on purpose and filmed accordingly, it did not have a racial basis. Although the previous principal has taken certain steps against the learners involved, the MEC has requested that the SGB look at the matter afresh and make its own findings.

2. Whilst Langenhoven Gymnasium does not practise nor condone racism, it is clear that certain management and communication practices may have led to such perceptions.

The MEC will not single out this or any other particular school. We both acknowledge that this school as well as many other schools across the province and indeed all over the country face similar challenges in terms of cultural and diversity management.

This is therefor an opportunity for the WCED to use this incident and others as indicators of steps we still need to take on a larger, systemic scale, which the school will fully welcome and support.

The process we will be following is restorative and not punitive. We will both act in the understanding that the learners inside schools are part of families and that what we are looking at is essentially a societal problem.

The MEC acknowledges that the school has put in some very concrete steps to make changes in the interim - which is very pleasing.

The following are some of the specific steps that will be taken by the WCED, which the Langenhoven Gymnasium SGB fully welcome and support:

  • A team of independent specialists appointed by the National Department of Education Directorate for "Race and Values" will run two day-residential workshops for 40 members of each of the Oudtshoorn school cluster. The workshops will focus on a "Strategy for Racial Integration".
  • The school in partnership with WCED will undertake a process of developing a tool based on the national Racial Integration Strategy and the local experience. All teachers will be empowered to deal with diversity challenges.
  • Indicators will be put in place so that the change interventions outlined in the report can be tracked and measured.
  • A complaints logbook is being kept to record and track how incidents involving learners are being dealt with.
  • The MEC reiterates the WCED's commitment to speed up the resolution of the current principal's application for retirement on the grounds of ill-health, and the appointment without delay of a new principal.
  • MEC will initiate a broader process to promote racial integration in the broader Oudtshoorn community, with the help of the Social Dialogue Unit of the Office of the Premier and local authority.
  • MEC will also initiate a process for the establishment of a broader Education Forum in November to develop a Provisioning Plan for the broader Oudtshoorn.

The WCED, Langenhoven Gymnasium and its SGB reiterate its commitment to a non-racial, non-discriminatory school community. Issues of racism will be incorporated into the overall programme we have of calling on schools to review and revise their codes of conduct.

It is important for all our schools to embrace diversity and make this province a Learning Home for all.

ADDITIONAL COMMENT FROM MEC DUGMORE

We will continue to involve all interested parties in drawing up and reviewing school policies. It is important for us to set up clear procedures for dealing with issues such as harrassment, bullying, assault, etc. and make sure that these are recorded in the school codes of conduct. These codes must be well-understood and mechanisms in place to make sure they are implemented.

It is obviously the goal of Government is to have all schools as democratic entities, which apply the employment equity formulae. Staff at schools must reflect the demographics of the learners.

Schools for the previously privileged must open their doors to all. Learner enrolments need to reflect societal demographics. Schools need to recognise diversity as a strength and set up all tiers in the school accordingly - learner enrolment, staffing, SGBs, RCLs - all of these should broadly reflect representivity and inclusiveness.

Schools must use the contents of the curriculum itself to help nurture change in values and attitudes. The Life Orientation curriculum, the Social Sciences curriculum and the Languages curriculum all offer learning programmes to help learners tackle issues of diversity, prejudice, bullying and difference.

Our teachers themselves, who are the victims of a deeply divided society, will be given tools to heal themselves; they need tools to help promote cross-cultural awareness training and to examine their own behavior for discrimination.

The Learner bodies will to be encouraged to lead steps to move away from racism to reconciliation. Sport and cultural activities should be strengthened to help promote the shedding of differences and the building of shared goals.

Our provincial drive to strengthen the RCLs will take on this target explicitly.

In the case of crises schools must have intervention plans, report to the WCED, impose sanctions and make sure that all role-players, including parents or the community are drawn upon to provide the best solutions.

For enquiries, contact Gert Witbooi:  082 550 3938, or gwitbooi@pgwc.gov.za.


Issued by:
Gert Witbooi
Media Liaison Officer
Office of the MEC for Education
Western Cape
Tel: 021 467 2523
Fax: 021 425 5689

Visit our website: http://wced.wcape.gov.za

The Western Cape - A Home for All
INtshona Koloni - iKhaya loMntu wonke
Die Wes-Kaap - 'n Tuiste vir Almal


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2007 WCED