General investigation only for Hoerskool Ben Viljoen

Human Rights Commissioners won’t investigate specific racial incidents at Mpumalanga’s controversial Hoerskool Ben Viljoen.

SHARON HAMMOND reports

THE SA Human Rights Commission will not investigate specific incidents of racism at Mpumalanga’s controversial Hoerskool Ben Viljoen, said commissioner Charlotte McClain.

She said two commissioners and a legal officer would only probe general allegations of racism and the process of transformation when they visited the school in Groblersdal on Thursday.

“We’ll be looking at issues around racism, like the use of derogatory language and the process of transformation,” she explained. The school has made international headlines twice since it first allowed black children access in 1997. The most recent incident involved the arrest of a black teenager accused of stabbing a white girl who allegedly called him a “kaffir”.

In 1997, the school tried to expel a Grade 8 pupil when he accidentally touched a white girl’s breast after reportedly being tripped. The boy’s younger brother has reportedly since not been allowed to register at the school.

McClain said she was not aware of the allegation, and again stressed the investigation would not look at specific incidents.

The SAHRC’s investigation follows a complaint laid by black parents at the school calling themselves the Concerned Parents Group. They say white children continue to call their black classmates kaffirs and assault them in the corridors. None of the teachers are black and all are Afrikaners who struggle to teach in English. English-speaking children are reportedly not allowed to choose subjects when they reach Grade 10 and are forced into a single stream.

The parents also complain that the national flag and anthem are not acknowledged and that assemblies are conducted in Afrikaans only.

McClain said meetings would be held with the Concerned Parents Group, the principal, schools governing body and department of education after which a report would be submitted to the department.

—African Eye News Service, January 20, 2000.

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