Cops were called out to a high school yesterday after about 200 learners protested against alleged racism and favouritism over drug tests at their school.
The pupils were protesting against the suspension of seven learners at Queen’s Park High School in Woodstock who tested positive for drugs in urine tests.
The learners accused the principal and School Governing Body (SGB) of favouritism and racism after two of the suspended children, whose parents are believed to be on the SGB, were allegedly allowed to return to school yesterday.
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The Western Cape Education Department confirmed the seven were suspended after testing positive following a random drug test at the school.
However, Jessica Shelver, spokesperson for Education MEC Debbie Schafer said the suspension has since been lifted as due process was not followed.
The students gathered on the school grounds and started toyi-toying shortly after the matriculants finished a preliminary test after 11am yesterday.
Two matriculants confirmed to the Daily Voice that their exam was not disrupted.
The pupils intended to march to the offices of the WCED in the city centre, but were stopped after their principal, only identified as Mr Van Der Merwe, called in police.
As learners made their way down Roodebloem Road, chanting “we’ve had enough”, a police van pulled up.
A Grade 8 learner was placed in the back of a police van, but the reason for his detention was not clear.
According to the pupils, preferential treatment is given to learners whose parents serve on the SGB.
“Here at this school if your mother or father is not on the SGB, your life will be hell,” a boy told the Daily Voice.
Learners are also calling for the removal of Van Der Merwe, who they accused of being racist.
A black pupil says: “When we arrive a bit late for school, we get threatened by him. We are told we will be sent back to Khayelitsha or Gugulethu, and township schools ‘where we belong’. Yet, there are coloured students with us from Mitchells Plain but nothing gets said to them.”
The girl added: “In our classes we are called black. Teachers call us black. What is black? They are breaking us apart and now we’ve had enough.”
The Chairperson of the SGB, Celine Morris, arrived and told learners the matter had been resolved.
“The department has found that the learners were suspended illegally and they must return to school,” Morris told pupils, who claimed her son was one of those suspended.
However, she declined to divulge any details.
A parent of a learner attending Queen’s Park High says Van der Merwe was appointed a month ago.
“I feel the incorrect person was chosen as principal and most kids feel that way. Mr Van Der Merwe screams at kids all the time, he has no leadership skills at all,” the concerned parent says.
“Parents should sign up to vote him off and all educators should be interviewed as to what is really happening at that school. The school needs to be investigated.
“He even tells black learners to go back to the areas they come from or that they will never be successful.”
Van der Merwe, who arrived at the school accompanied by police, refused to speak to learners or the Daily Voice.
Shelver confirmed the suspended learners are back at school, and that the WCED will be investigating the racism allegations.
She says: “Our information is that learners from the school reportedly tested positive for drugs. The school did not follow due processes when suspending the learners and as a result, our circuit manager issued an instruction that all learners return to school immediately.
“The circuit manager says the school did not follow due process by informing the parents/guardians of the learners of the suspension.”
She added: “We will investigate the allegations of racism.”
Neither Shelver nor the police replied to queries regarding the Grade 8 learner that was picked up by police.
The protest comes after girls at Sans Souci High and Pretoria High schools protested against racism and discriminatory hair policies at their schools, and the WCED ordered investigations into the allegations.
The principal of Sans Souci‚ Charmaine Murray, has been asked to take a leave of absence while an investigation is underway.