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Pupils stay home as HRC investigates racism claims at Hoërskool Jan Viljoen

Gauteng education acting spokesperson Oupa Bodibe says pupils will be taught from home until the department meets parents on Thursday evening

15 February 2022 - 16:30
Police used rubber bullets to disperse the crowd outside Hoërskool Jan Viljoen on Monday.
Police used rubber bullets to disperse the crowd outside Hoërskool Jan Viljoen on Monday.
Image: Belinda Pheto

Hoërskool Jan Viljoen was an empty shell on Tuesday, as students remained at home and authorities moved to determine what exactly is going on at the Randfontein school.

On Monday, parents and other groups protested outside the school after video footage of a fight between a male and female pupil on Friday started circulating. WhatsApp group messages containing racial slurs started being shared. 

Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi was at the school to investigate the cause of the fight and subsequent allegations of racism by pupils. The crowd became volatile and police discharged rubber bullets to disperse the protesters.

Acting education department spokesperson Oupa Bodibe said students would be taught from home until Lesufi had a chance to meet parents on Thursday evening. Bodibe said the meeting would be a chance for the MEC to address the parents on the incident and the racism allegations. 

“He will report back on what he has gathered and the way forward. It is also a chance for parents to engage the MEC on their concerns. This includes all parents, no matter what side they are on. It won't be a one-sided conversation,” he said.

On Monday, Lesufi said he would be handing over evidence related to allegations of racism to police and to the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). This included WhatsApp messages and footage of the fight.

Commissioner Andre Gaum, responsible for education matters at the SAHRC, said on Tuesday that the commission had not yet received the evidence but was already engaged in the matter. 

“We have a team at the school collecting information and contact details. They are assessing the matter to see if there will be an investigation,” he said.

Gaum added that if there was prima facie evidence of there being a human rights issue at play, “then we will investigate”.

On Monday Lesufi addressed the parents, saying he was “ashamed and embarrassed” at the incident as the head of education in the province.

“Most of you didn't go to work today [Monday] because of an incident that happened here on Friday. That incident cannot be condoned and protected, it must be condemned.

“What we have gathered so far, all the evidence, all the WhatsApp messages ... all the messages that came from you as parents, we have handed them to police and the Human Rights Commission because we want this matter to receive the attention it deserves,” he said.

He said that based on reports received from the SGB and the principal, there were teachers and pupils who needed to explain their role.

“This country belongs to all of us and we are not going to be treated as stepchildren in our own country. We are not doing anyone a favour by enrolling our children in schools.”

On Tuesday morning, TimesLIVE's sister publication Sowetan interviewed two pupils at the school, who said they were involved in the fight on Friday.

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