The Brackenfell High School saga continues to capture the public’s attention as more and more students step forward and speak about their experiences of alleged racism at the school.
Many students have chosen to raise their concerns anonymously. However, there have been a few people who have made public statements about the events that unfolded at the school and how it relates to the systemic racism they have experienced.
The response, in the comments, to these public statements are a microcosm of the national debate on this issue which has seemingly divided the country along racial and political lines.
Dominique le Roux, a former Brackenfell High School student, took to Facebook and declared that “Brackenfell High School is a high school that has racism at its very core.“
Le Roux began the 411-word post by stating that she is “not someone who enjoys being involved with politics” but felt the need to speak up because she felt like it personally affected “[her] and [her] friends”.
“There was not one black teacher in all my time being there. We had 6 Afrikaans classes and 4 English classes per grade. Which was weird, because on average, the English classes had 10 more pupils in them than the Afrikaans classes,” said le Roux.
“Which made the racial demographic in the school about 50/50 Afrikaans to non-Afrikaans. I think the teacher demographic should reflect the student demographic? Makes logical sense?”
Le Roux claims that the Afrikaans-speaking learners received preferential treatment, as they were taught by the “better teachers” and the school allegedly treated English-speakers with disdain, saying they lack discipline.
“The toxic, aggressive nature of the attacks on the videos by the white men, is a very realistic picture of the kind of men that school produces. My class was no different. I was actually so scared of some of them, that I changed my subjects or switched teachers,” said le Roux.
She stated that she does not support the Economic Freedom Fighters but merely wished to point out that “a peaceful protest in a public setting is a constitutional right.”
She concluded: “Systemic racism is such a big problem, and is not just present at Brackenfell. It is high time it gets addressed.”
When le Roux was questioned by another former student about why she used the split in the medium of instruction at Brackenfell High School as her way of determining the racial demographic of the school, she said that while she acknowledges that there are ‘white’ English-speakers, and ‘black’ and ‘coloured’ Afrikaans-speakers at the school, the assumption was based on the fact that most of the English-speaking learners at the school were not white, and vice versa.
The comments on le Roux’s post were a mixed bag. There were a number of people who commended her for “speaking [her] truth”, while a few other members of the public did not take kindly to her words and accused her of playing the ‘race card’.
One former learner said: “I was clearly in a different class. I cannot recall any aggressive men in our class.”
“Sorry, but I will “back” my own people. Heaven knows they need it,” said one commenter. “We are bullied enough by the racist “majority”.”
In another lengthy comment, a member of the public said: “you are white, as far as I can tell, and are supposed to stand by your people… or have you changed colour?”
— Leon (@DiePlaasPatriot) November 9, 2020
The school’s first black head boy, Luvuyo Mose spoke to the Weekend Argus about his own experience, saying he “felt out of place, unwanted, like we were not supposed to be there”.
Mose was allegedly denied the chance to be rugby captain, despite being elected by his teammates. The coach allegedly said they needed someone more senior, then chose a white student to fill the position.
“The racism at the school is and has always been swept under the rug, I am happy about what is happening because maybe now the racism will be dealt with,” he said.
Another former Brackenfell student who publicly spoke out about his experience of racism at the school received death threats after conducting a video interview with EWN two days after the violent clash between EFF members and Brackenfell residents, according to News24.
On Friday, November 13 the South African Police Service (SAPS) confirmed that a case of intimidation has been opened at the Rondebosch police station by a 22-year-old male, according to IOL.
#Brackenfellhighschool A former learner says the allegations of racism at the institution comes as no surprise, as he too was a victim of discrimination when he attended the school. LP pic.twitter.com/pXKUFRKwfR
— EWN Reporter (@ewnreporter) November 10, 2020
Former and current pupils both agree that the private party that led to the unrest merely revealed the systemic racism at the school.
The school governing body (SGB) stated that claims of racism are not new and that death threats have also been levelled at the learners who attended the private party, in a video interview with eNCA.
In July this year, a group of learners submitted a formal memorandum that addressed their experiences with racism and discrimination at the school. This memorandum was given to staff, principal and SGB.
— Roche (@roche_inc) November 11, 2020
Guillame Smit, the chairperson of the SGB, says that the school established a diversity committee to address the issues raised by the memorandum.
When questioned about whether the school were aware of any other issues pertaining to race that students were concerned about, besides the @bhstories Instagram account, Smit said: “We did not know about the bhstories page until it was brought to the attention of the school because the children did not have the freedom to express themselves within the school, for whatever reason.”
Smit said that the SGB made the decision to do something proactively after they were made aware of the situation because they “are standing for inclusivity and non-racialism.”
“I would agree that issues of race is prevalent in our whole society and therefore I would agree that there are issues of race in this school,” said Smit. “I would agree that we are proactively addressing it as a school and not because somebody, at this stage, is forcing us to do it.”
The court case between Brackenfell High School’s Governing Body and the Economic Freedom Fighters has been postponed until December 2.
Picture: Facebook/Hoërskool Brackenfell High