The KwaZulu-Natal department of education (DoE) confirmed on Tuesday that the pupil who allegedly used the k-word to describe black pupils at Pietermaritzburg Girls High School has been suspended pending an investigation into the incident. A letter was sent to the pupil’s parents informing them that she is suspended while the investigation is underway.
DoE spokesperson Kwazi Mthethwa told The Daily Vox, “We have zero tolerance to racism in our schooling system, so we decided we’re not going to look away, we are going to intervene.”
When asked what interventions are being made to address systemic racism in schools, Mthethwa said that Life Orientation, a compulsory subject throughout a student’s school career, was a platform to address prejudice. “We try and educate our learners on how to conduct themselves.” He also said that the department occasionally held workshops around the province to address such issues.
Mthethwa said the department is committed to addressing racism in schools. He also urged parents and the wider community to do their bit. “We are calling upon parents to play their role as well, because these people don’t come from the bushes, they come from the families. If a young girl will refer to another learner using the k-word – these things are taught at home.”
The pupil’s suspension comes after on outpouring of criticism on social media over how the school had handled the incident. Students reported that staff members at the school told them to “get over it” and that “no one would care about it” in five years.
Zama Nzimande, a former Pietermaritzburg Girls High pupil, started an online petition calling for the suspended student to issue a public and unreserved apology, and be ineligible for any future leadership positions, among other demands.