Protest against 'racism and discrimination' at top SA boys' school

05 June 2020 - 23:33 By ERNEST MABUZA
Grade 12 boys at Bishops Diocesan School in Cape Town engaged in a peaceful protest against racism and discrimination at the school, its outgoing principal said on Friday.
Grade 12 boys at Bishops Diocesan School in Cape Town engaged in a peaceful protest against racism and discrimination at the school, its outgoing principal said on Friday.
Image: Bishops via Facebook

Grade 12 pupils at one of the country’s top private boys' schools, Diocesan College in Cape Town, better known as Bishops, held a protest at the school on Friday against “racism and discrimination”.

They also delivered a hard-hitting list of demands saying, “we are approaching you as a matric year in its entirety, and not as a certain demographic or minority, to demand that action is taken to ensure that every one of our fellow students are treated as equals within a system that has, for too long, treated them as anything but”.

Principal Guy Pearson said in a letter to parents on Friday that more than 100 matric boys had gone to the school on Friday and he was able to personally say goodbye to them. His last day, before retiring, at Bishops is next Friday.

Pearson said the protest, at noon, was against “racism and discrimination in our school”.

“This was a peaceful protest and at the end, a memorandum was presented to a member of the executive. This will be an ideal opportunity to continue the engagement with all members of our community regarding these issues in our school.”

In the memorandum, also shared on social media, the pupils said racism, and greater intolerance, has loomed over Bishops since its inception.

Annual tuition fees for grade 12 for 2020 amount to R158,620 (R277,800 including boarding).

“While we, as the matric group of 2020, applaud the individuals who have actively taken steps to dismantle this underlying discrimination, we are forced to realise that greater strides need to be taken.

“Racism is a systemic issue, and not one overcome by superficial codes of conduct and disengaged reminders of zero tolerance, but rather through a united desire for change,” the class said in the memorandum.  

Pearson said in a statement sent to TimesLIVE that over the “past number of years, we have worked hard to make Bishops a welcoming environment for all who learn and work here, irrespective of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.

“This has included the development of a Transformation and Diversity Policy, Social Sustainability Document, and an Anti-Discrimination Policy. We have engaged with boys, staff and parents in various forums and focus groups, the aim being to give a voice to minorities in our school.”

He said the school commended the “mature leadership of our matrics and the unity that they have shown in speaking out together as one”.

The school was in the news in December 2019 when an investigation determined that a former female teacher “engaged in sexual misconduct” with at least five pupils.


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