Victimised?: This Grade 3 boy was allegedly harassed for wearing a religious red string (the Kalava) around his wrist to school. Picture: Rudolph Nkgadima
The Human Rights Commission is investigating alleged racial and religious discrimination at a school in Boksburg while the teacher at the centre of the row has been suspended.
This follows complaints against a teacher at the Parkdene Primary School who has been accused of harassing a Grade 3 pupil for wearing the sacred Hindu red string (Kavlava) around his wrist.
Isaac Magena, spokesperson for the HRC, confirmed receiving two complaints about the alleged harassment of Akilan Madurai. “One (we got) from the parents and recently we got another one from the DA. We have already started with our investigation,” Magena said.
The HRC said it was in contact with the Department of Education.
“The teacher refused to cooperate with us in the initial stages of the investigation.
“She has since been suspended pending our investigation and that of the Department of Education,” said Magena.
The child’s parents Sundrika and Don Madurai said they had tired of dealing with their son’s “harassment”. “We tried every avenue to deal with the matter internally. The principal told us to find him another (school),” Don Madurai told The New Age.
Akilan also spoke out about his ordeal: “She called me a coolie (a derogatory word for Indians in South Africa) after I refused to cut off my string.
“Everything is good except on Mondays because that is when I go to her class. My class teacher protects me from the cruel music teacher.
“When she was on playground duty I would hide in the toilets until break was over just to avoid her,” he said.
The Madurai family is not the only family with complaints against the teacher.
Several other parents said they were glad that “this was being exposed”.
A parent who did not want to be identified, said: “My children also had a problem with the religious string on their hands.
“I didn’t do anything about it thinking that when a parent stands up to the school, the kids suffer the consequences.”
Another aggrieved parent, Yolanda Mtamo, said she was delighted that the school was being investigated.
“God is not a fool. I had a screaming match with the principal after I tried to question why the school was unaware of my Grade’s 1 son’s whereabouts when my mother could not find him after a school soccer match.
“He told me to take my child out of the school if I wasn’t happy,” said Mtamo.
Attorneys acting for the school said the principal and teacher denied the allegations.
“They (allegations) are strongly denied. Racism is not being tolerated at our school. Our school policy says all religions decoration may be worn and be hidden with a jersey,” said Kwa attorneys.
Department of Education spokesperson Charles Phahlane said, “The matter is still in process and we will communicate the outcomes.”