ON Thursday last week, NewsDay ran a rather sad story whereby racism is reported to be rearing its ugly head at one of Zimbabwe’s top private and supposedly culturally diverse school, Hellenic Academy.
The school is located in one of Harare most affluent suburbs and, according to the authorities, has an enrolment of over 600 pupils from diverse racial and cultural backgrounds: white, black and Asian.
However, as indicated in our story last week, parents with children learning at Hellenic Academy are up in arms with the authorities over racial discrimination, mainly against black pupils and some are even withdrawing their children and sending them to more racially tolerant institutions.
Circumstances are that four white students are alleged to have attacked a male black pupil and broke his arm last month, resulting in the child arming himself with a knife to defend himself, for which he was suspended, while his assailants walked scot-free.
Also, a white teacher, who is alleged to be in the habit of making racist remarks to pupils and other staff members, has not only been allowed to continue working but has been defended by some white colleagues saying she is given to making those “generational comments”.
While we commend the school authorities for suspending the teacher for recently referring to a pupil as a kaffir, an extremely racially derogatory term, we feel that the sanction is not commensurate with the offence.
Authorities at the school reportedly refused to give students the platform to raise their concerns when they requested.
This is not the first time a local private school has been caught up in a racism storm.
Sometime last year, reports suggested that the Marondera-based Anglican-run Peterhouse Group of Schools had similar incidents where its white leaders allegedly treated students and teachers with racial bias. The problem, which can be traced to the country’s colonial past, is prevalent at several top schools in Harare and Bulawayo.
What is baffling in all this is government’s apparent reluctance to decisively tackle this issue.
For instance, apart from giving the same well-rehearsed response: “Zimbabwe is a diverse country where all races and ethnicities are embraced equally. We have to live in harmony whether we are black or white. We don’t want anyone discriminating on the basis of race. If there is any such learning institution, I will close that school,” Education minister Cain Mathema has done very little if anything to address this sensitive issue.
Children of senior government officials also learn at this school. Have they not reported the same to their parents at home?
That Mathema, who prides himself as a liberation war hero who fought fervently to end racial discrimination, folds his hands when this is happening, is baffling at the very least.
We in the media have done our part and shall be singled out when proclamations of “we failed these kids” shall be made.