Brackenfell High School has been under scrutiny for weeks after a group of Afrikaans-speaking parents allegedly organised an unofficial matric ball for white students only as the school cancelled the official dance due to COVID-19 regulations.

In a statement, Education MEC Debbie Schäfer detailed a report from the WCED that has ruled the matric dance was a private function and that the school had no involvement.

After being informed that the dance had been cancelled, a parent of one of the learners decided to arrange a function for her daughter and some of her friends.

The event was hosted on a wine farm on October 17, and tickets cost R500 each. According to Schäfer, the tickets had no reference to the school at all. Supervision at the event was strictly maintained by parents only.

“The invitation was widely circulated, via WhatsApp groups.  The parent asked class representatives to circulate it to their class WhatsApp groups, and the principal has confirmed with them that they did so,” said Schäfer.

“The invitation was also posted on the parent organiser’s Facebook page, so was open to people outside Brackenfell High as well.  As a result, there were 42 learners from Brackenfell High School and 30 from other surrounding schools who attended.”

According to Schäfer, a separate WhatsApp group was started for those who had replied that they wished to attend.

“This would explain the allegations of some who claim to have been excluded from a WhatsApp group.”

The media service provider, who is also used by the school, was asked to take photos at the event, and uploaded images from the event on the school’s website in error.  Objections were then raised by other parents.  The school did not give permission for this to be done, and the photos were removed.

Allegations were made that the Head Girl did not attend because learners of colour had been excluded, but Schäfer maintains both the Head Girl and Head Boy were not present because they had other plans on that day and were organising their own farewell functions.

“It is thus clear that this was a private event that was organised by parents of learners, who were disappointed that the formal school farewell had been cancelled. The fact that people from other schools attended, shows that it was not a “school event”.  It was not held on school property, as has been widely reported, despite repeated corrections,” added Schäfer.

“The evidence is thus that invitations were circulated to all matric classes.  There is no evidence that people were excluded based on their race.”

The school does, however, acknowledge that the incident has highlighted other incidents of racial tensions, and will do the following to address the issue:

– They had already formed a Diversity Committee in June this year, after allegations of racist behaviour by some individuals.  The activities were interrupted because of Covid-19, but will now be fast-tracked.

– The SGB will consider whether a policy needs to be adopted to address some of the issues that have arisen out of this event.

– Structures will be created to allow more feedback from parents.

– A number of RCL activities are being planned to improve learner leadership and improve relations between learners of different backgrounds.

In addition to this, the district will also arrange a series of diversity workshops facilitated by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, for all the staff at the school.

Picture: Facebook/Hoërskool Brackenfell High

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