Nazi salutes in private school's matric class picture cause Twitter furore

The main photograph on the website of Somerset West Private School, depicting the 2018 matric class, includes three students giving Nazi salutes.
The main photograph on the website of Somerset West Private School, depicting the 2018 matric class, includes three students giving Nazi salutes.
Image: Somerset West Private School

A private school's main website image, featuring students giving the Nazi salute, has sparked a wave of online outrage.

The words immediately below the image on Somerset West Private School's (SWPS) website say: "Play & learn: Take a look into our day-to-day life."

On Twitter, Alastair Hendricks - who works at Cape Town online retailer Superbalist - said he had "a LOT of questions" about the photo.

Numerous people commented about his post. Ben Meier said: "Wait, someone updated the website and thought, hey that's a great picture to go with?" and Lady Skollie added: "Future mass shooters."

The school was founded by Morne Coetzer, who is the principal and owner. There is no governing body.

Coetzer's wife Nicolene, who works as the school receptionist, told TimesLIVE the picture had been removed from the website on Wednesday morning.

The image that replaced the photograph in which three students were giving Nazi salutes.
The image that replaced the photograph in which three students were giving Nazi salutes.
Image: Somerset West Private School

She would not say who posted the original picture, or when. A colleague initially told TimesLIVE Coetzer was teaching and would be available at 10.15am, but his wife said he would not be available until 5pm.

Somerset West Private School owner and principal Morne Coetzer and his wife Nicolene
Somerset West Private School owner and principal Morne Coetzer and his wife Nicolene
Image: Facebook/Nicolene Coetzer

"We've already changed the picture and we are investigating," she said.

"We will work on a statement. I am not authorised to speak to the media."

The school website says it opened in 1998 and offered classes from grade 7 to post-matric, for pupils who wanted to improve their results.

"It is the mission of SWPS to discover the prodigy within every individual. We aim to accomplish this by actively transforming every child into a giant through the fulfilment and implementation of our core values," the website says.

"We provide staff, parents and learners with an environment which nurtures social, academic and spiritual strength. Within our intense focus on the development of accountability, responsibility and respect in addition to the recognition and acceptance of individuality and diversity, we allow learners to embrace their own perfection and brilliance.

Another of the matric class of 2018 images from Somerset West Private School.
Another of the matric class of 2018 images from Somerset West Private School.
Image: Somerset West Private School

"We encourage a mind-set of openness and integrity amongst all members of SWPS. We believe firmly in the value of transparency in the development of a sound character, maintaining relationships and obtaining authentic success.

"Ethical and respectful behaviour is expected of everyone and it is vital in the development of valuable members of society who have the ability to respond in compassionate ways towards others."

 

  • TimesLIVE received a written statement from Coetzer at noon on Wednesday August 7. It said: "Somerset West Private School's primary objective is to maximise the academicachievement of its learners. We do not promote or support any particular political or religious views. Learners are encouraged to develop as individuals, think freely and to express themselves freely, provided that such expression does not impair the dignity of others. It has come to our attention that there have been objections to a matric photo where some learners give what appears to be a Roman salute. While we don't believe that the learners intended to offend anyone, we have removed the photograph from the website."

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