VEREENIGING. – Gen Smuts High School was the scene of mayhem last Friday when hundreds of pupils ran amok and refused to attend classes. They allegedly demanded that all white staff members leave the school premises. A number of gang fights also broke out on Friday in which some of the children, according to non-official sources, had been slightly injured.
Although most pupils came to school this week, they refused to attend classes. Tension started to build up last Wednesday when photos of the past 60 years’ headmasters were removed from the foyer of the school’s reception area.The photos were replaced with photos of Nelson and Winnie Mandela, as well as other well-known former or current ANC ministers. The headmasters’ photos were undamaged but piled up in the boardroom.
On Friday morning, teachers and other staff members found the bust of the late statesman, Gen Jan Smuts, apparently pushed from its base in the foyer. It apparently happened the previous evening after a meeting of the Student Governing Body (SGB) was held at the school.
One pupil told Sedibeng Ster on Friday that this act was symbolic of some parents’ and learners’ wish to “rid the school of white people, especially white staff members who think they still live in the apartheid era”.
Learners who spoke to Sedibeng Ster on condition of anonymity say some of the white staff members are out of touch with the culture and tradition of blacks. “They want to enforce their Western culture and overly strict discipline on black learners,” one of the pupils said.
The learners demand that white staff members who “can’t adapt to the ‘African way’ should be forced out of the school”. White staff members, however, say there is a totally different side to the coin. “The SGB is lying to the parents and creates tension between black and white,” says a person with close ties to the school.
“The Governing Body closes its eyes to corruption in their own midst and tries to push all white staff members as well as teachers from other countries such as Zimbabwe and Kenya out of the school to make positions available for their own friends and family,” says one of the teachers. Another source, who wishes not to be identified, told Sedibeng Ster that the white staff members aren’t the real problem.
“The truth is that the school is rife with cough mixture and schedule 5 pain-killer tablets being sold by kids to each other. The use of dagga is the norm. The kids do not go to class and, if they do, they threaten and shout at the teachers. There’s no discipline anymore. Some teachers have received death threats,” alleges a Sedibeng Ster source.
“The Governing Body is sacrificing the school for political gain and private agendas,” she added. Seventeen white staff members have apparently been retrenched in the past months of which 16 won their CCMA cases. The school now owes these retrenched staff members a total of R860 000 – money that the school alleges it doesn’t have.
General Smuts High School has been in existence since 1953 and, until about two years ago, excelled academically, culturally and in the sporting spheres. Since 1994, this school has been a multicultural and multiracial school, with no previous incidents of racism in any form. It currently has 1 532 learners, of whom only one is white.
* Sedibeng Ster was unable to reach Steve Mabona, the spokesperson for the Gauteng Department of Education, for official comment.