WCED clears Brackenfell High of racism claims

Education MEC Debbie Schafer says her department found no racism at Brackenfell High.

The Western Cape Education Department says its investigation has found no evidence that people were excluded, on the basis of their race, from an end-of-year party for Brackenfell High School pupils.

The school drew flak from the EFF and became the scene of protest action and violent clashes between protesters and residents after black pupils at the school complained they had been excluded from the party.

In a statement on Monday, Education MEC Debbie Shafer said the department’s investigation had found that a Brackenfell High parent, after learning that the school had cancelled a matric farewell because of Covid-19, had decided to arrange a function for her daughter and some friends.

“The event was arranged at a private venue (a wine farm) on 17 October 2020. Tickets cost R500 each. I have seen the invitation, and there is no reference to the school at all. It specified that it was limited to 100 people, after the venue advised that they could increase the number of attendees from 50 to 100 as a result of the relaxation of Covid regulations.

“The invitation was widely circulated, via WhatsApp groups. The parent asked class representatives to circulate it to their class WhatsApp groups, and the principal has confirmed with them that they did so. The invitation was also posted on the parent organiser’s Facebook page, so was open to people outside Brackenfell High as well. As a result, there were 42 learners from Brackenfell High School and 30 from other surrounding schools who attended.

“A separate WhatsApp group was started for those who had replied that they wished to attend. This would explain the allegations of some who claim to have been excluded from a WhatsApp group.”

She said that the head girl and head boy – who are of colour- had been invited but had not attended as they had had other commitments on the day.

“Four teachers were invited in their personal capacities, as they had close personal links to the organising parent. The school was aware that the event was happening, but the school and the organisers regarded it as a private event. It was thus not necessary to seek approval of the principal or the school governing body,” Ms Schafer said.

There was no evidence that people had been excluded from the event because of their race, so there were no grounds to take action against those teachers who had attended, she said.

Nevertheless, she added, the incident had highlighted other racial tensions at the school. The school had acknowledged that and would be taking steps to address them.

“The district will arrange a series of diversity workshops facilitated by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, for all the staff at the school,” she said.