Nelson Mandela Foundation withdraws from transformation process at top KZN girls' school

Former pupils at St Anne’s Diocesan College in the KZN Midlands allege there is an institutionalised racist system at the school

St Anne's school is one of several called out on social media for alleged racial practices and inadequate transformation programmes.
St Anne's school is one of several called out on social media for alleged racial practices and inadequate transformation programmes.
Image: Supplied, used with permission from St Anne's

The Nelson Mandela Foundation has withdrawn from the transformation process it co-designed for St Anne’s Diocesan College in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, claiming it was overlooked and ignored.

This after a group of former pupils at the exclusive private school demanded an apology from the school and for the headmaster's resignation. In a 6,000-word public document, accompanied by a 2,000-word letter of demand, the pupils allege there is an institutionalised racist system at the top private school.

In a letter dated November 25, the foundation’s CEO Sello Hatang said: “It is with great regret that I must inform you that the Nelson Mandela Foundation has decided to withdraw from the transformation process which our two institutions co-designed for your school.”

Hatang confirmed to TimesLIVE that the letter was authentic, and that the foundation had pulled out of the process with St Anne’s.

Hatang says in the letter that it took several months to agree on terms of engagement and to finally sign the memorandum of understanding (MOU).

“For the foundation it constitutes both the mandate and the warrant for the work we committed to doing with you. It is not something which should be signed, put in a filing cabinet and forgotten about,” Hatang said.

He accused the school of breaching the MOU signed between the two institutions.

“I am sure you will appreciate the impossible position the foundation is put in when its team members attend JOC meetings and are simply informed about decisions which have been taken and processes which have been initiated. What this communicates to us is that we are being co-opted into an agenda that we don’t have any meaningful say on, and that the work we bring to the process is merely window dressing,” he said in his letter.

Hatang questioned how the foundation could be partners with the school on a transformation process and not be consulted on the scope, positioning, mandate and selection process for the new head of transformation role.

He accused the school of ignoring a carefully negotiated and workshopped four- phase transformation process.

“I could go on, but let me just say that, by its actions, the school has rendered the MOU redundant and compromised the trust which is fundamental to these complex and difficult processes,” he said.

He further accused the school of ignoring a survey the foundation conducted, and needed feedback from the school community.

“The integrity of surveys like this hinges on participants receiving appropriate and timely feedback. To hear from the foundation project team that at the JOC meeting on 23 November the school would still not commit to a feedback mechanism tells me — as many other things which have happened in the past few months have also told me — that in practice the foundation’s role is not the one defined in the MOU.”

He concluded that through many hard months of work, the foundation project team has enabled the school to acknowledge the enormous challenge of institutionalised racism which it faces and to understand the scope and the depth of the transformation work required.

He said they will be informing their various stakeholders, including the Archbishop of the Anglican Church, that they have withdrawn.

“Please feel free to make my letter to you available to the school’s stakeholders as you do the same,” he wrote.

According to a parent who has two girls at the school but didn't want to be named fearing that her daughters might be victimised, the school, institutionally and culturally, has not changed.

“They are still stuck in the apartheid era,” the parent said.

He said black parents formed a committee and proposed the Nelson Mandela Foundation to the school as part of the process.

“To our surprise, the foundation has been frustrated to the extent that they withdraw from the process,” he said.

He highlighted that none of the school's academic teachers are black and black staff at the school are employed only as cooks and cleaners.

“No black person in that school is in management or an academic teacher,” he said.

Kari Greene, St Anne's board chair, said she would respond to questions on Wednesday.


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