Allegations of racism have erupted on social media from former learners from one of Durban’s oldest girls’ schools, Durban Girls’ College. The uproar began after the school sent out an internal email regarding social media messaging around the death of American, George Floyd.

It urged students to use good judgment in social media posts around the matter.

Former learners in response took to the platform to share what they claim are past experiences with racism at the school.

“I was targeted by a teacher who forced me to cut off my red string in front of her and then throw it in the bin…In Grade 7 we went to a hockey tour and a friend of mine, who happens to be a person of colour, came on the tour with us and this student said to me that the only reason that she’s coming to the tour is because she’s a person of colour and it’s because of the broad based economic empowerment…This incident that I will never forget was in 2017 we were called by an LO teacher we were called disgusting human beings because we asked very nicely and respectfully like we taught at home if we could please use the function room to practice for Zulu evening,” the former learners said.

A Member of the board of governors at the school says they have set up a task team to thoroughly investigate the claims.

“The school does not tolerate racism in any way shape or form it is taking these allegations that have been raised at this stage incredibly seriously and has set up various mechanisms in order to deal with all of the allegations and to investigate thoroughly. We have set up a task team that is dealing with it and we are hoping to have an independent facilitator appointed fairly soon so that we can have conversations with old girls with the girls at the school currently the teachers parents and other stakeholders that wish to come forward and discuss these issues,” says Board member, Verlie Oosthuizen.

The school is just one of a number of other prestigious South African schools that are being accused of racism on social media.

Racism influenced by economic conditions

On Friday, South African Communist Party (SACP) General-Secretary Blade Nzimande said racism in South Africa is structural and is largely influenced by the economic conditions of citizens. The Higher Education Minister further decried, what he termed as, the unwillingness of some sections of the private sector to contribute towards transformation.

“Our economy is still largely white-dominated not just in terms of ownership, but also in terms of skills and some of the very important skills that keep any economy going like engineering, like finance, like legal, still dominated by big law firms. Government has done a lot to foster changes in this regard but unfortunately, the reality is that that sphere of the private sector that is not dependent on doing business with the government, very little has changed.”

Fight against racism must be unrelenting

President Cyril Ramaphosa, also on Friday, said race remains a defining feature of many societies and South Africa is a country that has been defined by a racial and unequal society.

He was speaking in his capacity as the ANC President during a virtual launch of the party’s ‘Black Friday’ campaign aimed at showing solidarity with African Americans, as global outrage continues over the killing of George Floyd at the hands of the police.

“As the world acknowledged at the UN world conference against racism in Durban in 2001, the struggle against racism and related intolerances must be a relentless struggle. We must develop systematic programmes to tackle it both nationally and on a global level as well based on an understanding that all human beings are created equal and must be seen as being equal before the law,” Ramaphosa said.