Racism Claim after Coloured Pupil not Made Prefect
Durban, South Africa
The father of a former Maritzburg College pupil, who was allegedly overlooked for a prefect position because he is coloured, said he hoped speaking out about racism at the school would pave the way for change.
Maritzburg College’s school governing body has denied the racism allegation.
The father, who took his Grade 11 son out of the school shortly before the school year ended this month, said the seriousness of the issue should be highlighted and “former whites-only” schools needed to embrace diversity and change.
Allegations of racism at the top Pietermaritzburg school emerged after the pupil’s private psychologist notified his parents that he was depressed and borderline suicidal.
It was alleged that he was a front-runner for a leadership position but he was not selected. A teacher told him that he had not been chosen because he was “not black enough and not white enough” to make the cut.
“My child went from daylight to darkness. He was always receiving merits in school and has his provincial colours in sport. When all this happened, I had to get a private psychologist as exams were fast approaching and how could we parents stand by and not push the panic button?”
Chairperson of the school governing body Rob Evans said the school “has a firm policy of non-discrimination”.
Evans said the incident was being investigated and that prefects were selected on merit in a rigorous, transparent process. “It’s a multistage process with extensive input from both pupils and educators in the selection,” Evans said.
The pupil’s father said they reported the matter to the school in August and met the deputy principal, who told them the selection process for prefects had been the same for 25 years and that race never played a role.
The selection process starts with the Grade 11 pupil voting for their peers.
Those selected are part of a leadership camp where the teachers vote for who they think should be prefects. The votes are tallied by the principal, deputy principal and a leadership coach.
According to the pupil’s father, his son was a favourite among the pupils.
“When he wasn’t selected, he told me it was due to merit. I just told him it was okay and just one of those things. We left it at that, but the race issue was brought up by his psychologist and that was when I made enquiries at the school,” he said.
The father said the headmaster met them in October and promised to investigate but nothing seemed to have been done. He said the incident affected his son so badly that after the exams, they had decided to remove him and his brother from the school.