Challenge Discrimination in Schools
Bona|January 2017

Despite our political democracy, the legacy of social exclusion rooted in the apartheid era continues to exist in schools.

Francoise Gallet

Last year’s rows over hair and cultural identity at school show that discrimination can be subtle or secret. But, schools can use codes of conduct to create a learning environment in line with constitutional values, while maintaining discipline and safety of learners, and promoting order and respect. And, when rules and codes of conduct are collectively developed, democratically agreed on and fair, they should be upheld. But, rules, traditions or everyday school practices are evidence of the unfortunate continuation of a legacy of racial and social exclusion, says Yusuf Sayed, South African research chair in teacher education at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. Yusuf has been researching peace building education interventions in South Africa, Pakistan and Rwanda.

When particular interest groups decide upon rules that delegitimise justifiable difference, marginalise others or cause pain rather than understanding, tolerance and acceptance, then those rules need to be challenged. This is according to Gushwell Brooks, communications coordinator at the South African Human Rights Commission.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS

“The entry point to any public school is through the principal,” says James Ndlebe, director of education management and governance development at the Department of Basic Education. And, parents have the right to find out about the language, religious policies and codes of conduct of the school before enrolling their children. Schools are obliged to make this information available on request, says James.

According to the South African Schools Act of 1996, the setting of a school’s code of conduct is the responsibility of the school governing body (SGB), which must serve the best interests of the school and develop policies in consultation with parents, teachers and learners.

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