Principal Accused of Racist Behaviour

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK The Ministry of Education will launch an investigation into alleged racist behaviour against some learners at the Windhoek High School by the school principal Ettiene Odendaal. This comes after a group of concerned parents approached and briefed the Education Permanent Secretary Vitalis Ankama and Deputy Permanent Secretary Stanley Simaata about the latest incident yesterday morning. A wave of racial discrimination allegations came crashing down on Windhoek High School, after a group of black learners were allegedly insulted, assaulted and discriminated against by the school principal Odendaal. What was supposed to be an enjoyable week of sportsmanship over the weekend turned into shock and sourness at Dune 7 in Walvis Bay when some teachers and the principal individually cross-questioned the accused girls about allegedly stealing other learners’ clothing, CD’s and cellphones. The Walvis Bay Inter-High School Sports tour, which is held every year, started turning out differently when a group of four girls were left behind at the Walvis Bay train station on Saturday evening. New Era spoke to some of the affected girls yesterday and was informed that all of them are being labelled as thieves, which according to them is not true. “All the learners are now calling us thieves, which is not true at all,” said one learner. It all happened when the girls were left behind at Walvis Bay train station after they had gone to buy food in town. “When we came back we started panicking, because the train had left without us and our bags were still on the train,” said another learner. One of their friends who was in the train called them on their cellphones to inform them that they were heading to Swakopmund. Paying N$10.00 each for a taxi to the Swakopmund station, the exclusively school-booked train did not arrive there much to the surprise of the ‘lost’ learners. “We then were told by one of our friends to come to Dune 7 in Walvis Bay and when we got there all the kids were out in the dunes,” said a learner. It was there that the whole drama started. The girls were called in and cross-examined one by one by the school principal and some teachers about stolen items allegedly found in their bags. The affected children had to go through the humiliating ordeal of having all their private luggage displayed before the other learners. They were sneered at as “thieves”. “We were told that the school rugby boys were searching for alcohol and stolen goods in all the learners’ bags and when we got there all our bags were gone and they took down our names,” explained another WHS learner saying that it was then that the principal started insulting them and accusing them of stealing. “You are thieves you belong in jail – you typical black ‘etters’ (discharge, matter),” in Afrikaans. (‘Julle tipiese swart bleddie etters’). Allegations were also made that some of the learners were beaten and kicked in the process as they were accused of stealing. “One boy was beaten by two teachers and another boy was beaten with a bag breaking his front tooth. “Now everybody thinks black girls are thieves and that is not true at all.” It is reported that about 15 learners were assaulted for stealing. “How can a school master insult and assault school children?” exclaimed another worried parent who had earlier gone to seek clarification at the principal’s office but was unable to get an audience with him. All they were told is that “this is a school issue”. None of the parents were initially informed about the incident and only got to find out from their children. However this turned out to be a worry because it is not the first time that the school is accused of similar incidents. Some of the parents felt that this is a case of victimisation and a case of assault has been lodged with the Namibian police. A concerned group of parents took up the issue with the Ministry of Education yesterday, where the names of the affected learners were put on record and an investigation launched. The principal of the school could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press. Meanwhile, in a press statement the National Society for Human Rights has called upon the Namibian police to launch an impartial and thorough investigation into allegations of assault and racism levelled against the WHS principal and several other white teachers at the school. Yesterday morning, several angry parents of the alleged victims formally complained to the organisation that the police are reluctant to investigate the allegations. Due to the seriousness of the allegations, the NSHR also called upon the Ministry of Education to suspend principal Odendaal pending police investigations.