“K” word rant sparks protest

17-year-old learner has been suspended from school

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Photo of protesters
Pietermaritzburg Girls’ High School parents accompanied by members of Cosatu and Nehawu outside the school on Thursday following a racists rant by a learner went viral on social media. Photo: Nompendulo Ngubane

A racist rant by a Grade 11 learner at the Pietermaritzburg Girls’ High School which went viral on social media this week has sparked widespread outrage. Some parents accompanied by members of Cosatu and Nehawu protested outside the school on Thursday.

The 17-year-old white learner, whose identity is known to GroundUp, is heard using the “K” word while referring to black learners after they allegedly misspelt her name. In a voice note, which has been making its rounds in a WhatsApp group since Sunday, the learner is heard using the “K” word twice.

She has since been suspended from school, but was allowed to write her exams at the Department of Education’s regional office. On Thursday, a learner attending the protest who asked not to be named said that her name has two dots on one of its letters. “After she realised her name was misspelled, she got angry and called black students by the ‘K’ word. The voice note went viral on Sunday and it got other students and parents angry.”

Parent protesting outside the school demanded that the school resolve the matter.

A parent, who asked not to be named, said, “We are devastated about how the school is handling the matter so far. The students are not told anything. Instead they are told to stop whining. This child is taking us back to what our forefathers fought for. The school must fix this. We can’t stand racism and no one deserves it.”

The Department of Education spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said that the Department had taken steps in a bid to avoid incidents of this nature from recurring.

“The student will be suspended while the matter is being investigated. If the student is found out to be at fault, the school and the Department will take further steps. We cannot ignore such behaviour,” said Mahlambi.

Nehawu regional secretary Zamisile Giyane said that since the incident, the school has increased security.

“All we want is for them to fix this as this school has heavy weight in Pietermaritzburg. We respected this school so they have to clean up this mess. We will fight this until something is done,” said Giyane.

In a statement, the school’s governing body “condemned in the strongest terms” the racist language used by the learner.

“We are attending to the matter with the urgency and importance it deserves. We cannot confirm the identity of the party involved as she is a minor. Please respect this … The acting principal, a departmental official and the School Governing Body chairman have addressed all learners and staff at the school, to make it clear that action is being taken. The correct procedures and disciplinary actions are being followed. We do not tolerate racism,” it read.

TOPICS:  Education Racism

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