Racist St John’s teacher resigns after pressure from education MEC

A geography teacher at St John’s College (SJC) in Johannesburg, Keith Arlow, resigned on Friday for making racist comments and “bringing the school into disrepute”. This was following pressure from government, old boys and parents.

The spokesperson of the Gauteng MEC of education, Steve Mabona, confirmed to the Daily Vox that Arlow has been fired by the school. However, the school later released a statement saying that the teacher resigned by mutual agreement.

Lesufi met with the school’s council after concerned parents sent him a letter and asked him to intervene in the teacher’s disciplinary process as they felt the school’s conduct was flawed. Lesufi visited the school to hear its justification for keeping him on as a teacher.

Speaking on Eusebius McKaiser’s show on 702 on Friday morning, Lesufi highlighted three issues with the way SJC handled the situation:

1. The school chose an adult over children, allowing a teacher who treats black students as subhuman on school premises;
2. If the school had found this particular teacher guilty, by law they are compelled to report the matter to the South African Council of Educators – a body that regulates conduct of teachers. They failed to do this; and
3. The short statement by school addressing the issue and parents complaints undermined the public and the dignity of the children involved.

Lesufi told McKaiser that he had advised the school to fire the teacher. “We told them to reverse their position,” Lesufi said, “there is no way that we can accept the decision currently.”

If the school fails to address the issue properly, Lesufi said the department would intervene in Arlow’s disciplinary hearing and deal with it through its own processes.

On Friday morning a few parents picketed outside the school and left placard outside that read, “Yes to transformation” and “Let’s all interrogate our own racism”.

Learners also boycotted inter-house athletics in protest of the school’s decision.

“We refused to let St John’s go on as if it was business as usual,” a learner told the Daily Vox. Many of the boys were upset as the school’s head boy was not allowed into the meeting with Lesufi, despite being a council member.

The school responded to the complaints of the parents in a short letter to the school community. In the letter, headmaster Paul Edey said “…the staff member has been found guilty of serious misconduct and, having taken into account a number of mitigating factors, has been issued with a final written warning”. Arlow’s salary and benefits were initially reduced and he was stripped of senior positions, said Edey in the letter.

This story has been updated with comment from the school.

Reporting by Shaazia Ebrahim and Mohammed Jameel Abdulla.
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons