OPINION | Schools are the place to eradicate divides

PREMIUM

Could it be that social media is making headway where the government has consistently failed, especially in the last few decades?
Could it be that the haphazard manner in which racism is being confronted through the exposure of racist incidents is perhaps the only way left to deal with this scourge?
I am sure that there are better ways to deal with racism.
Among those is the law, dialogue, education, sport, development projects and many other ways.
One of our greatest hopes is raising our children in a different manner to the way we were raised.
I am sure creating deliberate interactions, friendships, and teams that regularly cross the skin colour divide would go a long way towards eliminating racism.
This is why schools, which are major centres of socialisation and behaviour modification for our children, are so crucial to the effort to eradicate racism in our society.
It is in this light that the latest reports of racism in schools, pubs and towns in our beloved country are so disturbing.
The incident at Laerskool Scheizer-Reneke in the North-West, which was kicked off by a picture of a Grade R class where children seem to have been segregated according to skin colour, is a case in point.
The school has apparently denied racism, instead saying the seating arrangement was a way to address the language barrier.
Even if this were the case, surely it was lack of wisdom to have seen nothing wrong with a seemingly racially segregated class arrangement.
This is even more the case when we consider that, in actual fact, we want schools to play an active role in not only ending racism, but in creating a society where diversity is seen as a valuable asset.
One thing which must be clear to all South Africans is that the violence inflicted by racism within the South African psyche will take some time to be undone.
It is for this reason that sensitivity and wisdom is always required when we deal with anything remotely racial in nature.
If this means we have to walk on eggs, hold our tongues, research our diverse backgrounds and stories, then let’s do that.
But at the same time, those who perpetuate racism must be confronted consistently every time racism shows its ugly head.
It is a duty which the state is well placed to discharge, with all the resources we have endowed on it.
However, each citizen also has a duty to deal with racism inside and around themselves, in thought and action.
We must also confront it in every corner of SA.
In the classic fashion of politicians only attending to crisis, North West education MEC Sello Lehari visited the school.
It is during this visit that some parents of the school did the unthinkable, which was to carry guns to school.
I am not sure where law enforcement was during this time.
Maybe these were the parents whose children did not come to school on the day.
But still, what parent carries a gun in the vicinity of children, in an atmosphere where tempers could easily flare?
Or were these weapons carried for some sort of show of force or attempted intimidation?
Whatever the case, it was silly, irresponsible and illegal.
Luckily we have the pictures – these parents must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
The saddest part of these racial flare-ups is that they are decidedly taking us back to an old place we thought we left behind.
Every time there is a racial flare-up, many South Africans are pushed emotionally towards old attitudes of anger and distrust.
They increase liberation-era political thought at a time when we desperately need a new political narrative.
This emotional push is enough to garner support for left-leaning parties steeped in liberation rhetoric, such as the ANC and EFF.
While these are South African political parties with a right to be supported, under their political leadership we have made little headway in dealing with racism.
However, we have also made little headway towards a transformed economy, set up primarily for the development of SA rather than the benefit of foreign multinational companies.
While racism may be a distraction that finds fertile ground among the uninformed, the fearful and the ego-drunk, its entrenchment in our society gives it a disproportionate ability to thwart progress.
This is why we have to dismiss the myths supporting racism, and demonstrate a better way, especially in our schools...

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