BRIEF | CAPE TOWN 

Government finishes Sans Souci investigation

School principal Charmaine Murray retires

Photo of Sans Souci protest
Protests broke out in 2016 at Sans Souci High School in Cape Town. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks
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The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) has completed its investigation into Sans Souci Girls’ High School after protests disrupted the school last year. And the school’s principal Charmaine Murray has retired.

Last year, over a hundred Sans Souci high school students protested the school’s hair policies and called for principal Charmaine Murray to step down. A memo at that time, read out by the students, stated: “Institutional violence and systemic racism enacted upon us by the school is not new. … We have hidden our experiences in the kinks of our hair and swallowed the languages of our mothers into our throats. … Mrs Murray we ask you to step aside.”

Murray retired at the end of December 2016. A statement today by the provincial education head, Brian Schreuder, said she retired as “a consequence of the trauma of the unfolding events” and because she “believes this to be in her and the school’s best interests.” Murray was principal of the school for 17 years.

“It needs to be stated that the school’s performance has been uniformly good for which Mrs Murray as Principal has received numerous awards and accolades. I am very pleased to note that the school’s results in the 2016 NSC examination have once again been excellent,” wrote Schreuder.

During protests last year, students made claims of discrimination and racism in the school code of conduct. Schreuder confirmed the merit of these claims: “a number of discriminating practices gave rise to understandable unhappiness among learners and steps have already been taken to remedy these practices”.

Schreuder also said that “The climate and culture of the school, governed by the governing body and managed by the staff, need to reflect a South African school culture that is inclusive, orderly and disciplined.”

“I have taken legal advice on the matter, and the conclusion is that, while a number of unacceptable practices were identified which require revision and correction, the evidence is unlikely to lead to dismissal in any one instance,” wrote Schreuder.

In the coming days the WCED plans to meet again with the school and review its code of conduct and hair policy, among other things.

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