All who contributed in “perpetuating a toxic culture” at Kingswood College should be held accountable, the institution’s student body said in a statement on Thursday.
“Generations of Kingswoodians to come should not have to fight this same battle, but instead revel in the splendour of what the school is to become,” it read.
“We cannot treat this as black versus white or pupils versus management. This is Kingswood versus racism and any other discrimination.”
White pupils at the posh Makhanda school were accused of referring to black pupils as “snoobab” – baboons spelt backwards – and those from outside the country were not spared from xenophobic slurs, City Press reported on Sunday.
Pupils took to social media with their allegations, charging that college management was not dealing with their complaints.
College head Colleen Vassiliou told Eyewitness News the matter was receiving urgent attention and disciplinary steps would be taken against those involved.
In a statement, the school said social media was not the platform to “deal with these issues”, although it “acknowledged the pain and hurt felt by some members of our school, and by some of the broader Kingswood College community”.
The school urged pupils to “talk to us directly”.
The pupils, in their statement on Thursday, said the institution was “currently experiencing the term of our most hopeful management”.
“Although it is not perfect, we are working closely together to ensure a way forward. There are certainly some members of management, staff and pupils that need to be more thoroughly educated on the topic of discrimination.
“Workshops are going to take place in this regard and stimulating, thought-provoking conversations occurring around campus as a result of our current circumstances have already enlightened some,” it said.
“There is already the prospect of change on campus. Upon our request, counselling conducted by black psychologists has taken place, racial awareness workshops for both the staff and pupils are underway, the chance for student leadership to sit in on a meeting regarding the code of conduct next year is a strong possibility, and pupils and staff who have said or done things of a discriminatory nature are being reported immediately.”
More change was to come, and Kingswood’s “future is bright”, the students said.
“Generally, the most meaningful change is the general awareness that is beginning to grow in the pupils on campus. That is what is keeping us hopeful, the voice we have found. Sometimes structures need to be deconstructed all the way down to their foundations so they can be rebuilt with more stability.
“We deconstructed what was hurting us, and even at this moment, we are better than we were two weeks ago.”