About Race Relations and Integration

0
12

By Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro Recently the Windhoek High School hit the headlines when the school’s sporting tour to the coast ended wayward with reports of scholars’ belongings going missing. It is not so much the accusations of theft that is the envy of my indulgence in this column today but the racial overtones that accompanied the debacle, with the principal turning accused instead. The outgoing school board chairperson tried valiantly to extinguish the fire of embarrassment to the school in view of the felonies reported, pleading with the Ministry of Education for patience to allow the school to investigate the matter internally. Anyone is innocent until proven guilty. In that spirit I would have wanted to give the principal the benefit of the doubt. However, my distant observations and experience of the goings on at this school militates against this. As a parent of a child at this school I have started to doubt whether I made the right choice for my child. Academically, yes, I may give the school four stars, one star short of five for still desperately hanging on to Afrika-nerdom with staff more often than not leaning on and slipping into Afrikaans at public gatherings, wittingly or unwittingly. However, its established academic standards aside, the school has yet to assume a cosmopolitan and multi-cultural spirit befitting its post-independence multi-cultural intake. This has been my uneasiness with the school for more than a year that I have had affinity to the school. I have been asking myself when the aura of Afrikanerdom I have been sensing in and around the school would start to dissipate. Likewise I have been musing to what extent this aura of Afrikanerdom helps mould my child to become the quintessential Namibian, Afrikaner, Omumbanderu/Omuherero, or persona, whichever. This Afrikanerdom at the school is subtle and sublime and hard to detect but reveals itself, among others, in missions and omissions of the school authorities. For instance the second-class treatment traditionally non-Afrikaner sport codes, among them soccer, have been receiving from the school’s authority. As far as my knowledge stretches soccer hardly gets a penny from the school budget. Equally businesses seem less inclined to put their money into this code. The reasons may be so obvious that it is needless to re-state them here. Many a time the school soccer team has to play second fiddle to the preferred school rugby team as far as the playing pitch and other incidental matters are concerned. I am not aware to what extent the school’s soccer teams have the necessary kits? Efforts to independently raise funds by those involved with the school soccer teams seem to be frustrated by those apparently entrusted with this task. This syndicate wouldn’t allow an own initiative in this regard lest this perhaps interferes with whatever joy it derives from its efforts other than having the school’s sporting activities catered for. Again I stand to be convinced how much of the funds so raised ever trickle down to the predominantly black sport codes. One event on the annual calendar of the former white schools that seems intact and exclusive to them is the Miss High School beauty pageant that looks more a vanguard for white beauty with hardly any black schools (those in Katutura or Khomasdal) participating, whether by choice or by design. And those black children in the former white schools who dare partake rarely meet the mark. I stand to be corrected but I am not aware of any black children at any of the former white schools ever coming an inch of the crown of the queen. Thus this pageant, and most of its sister pageants in the former white high schools, including the Miss Teen, have for most part since independence been a platform for white beauty as perceived and championed in the previously white high schools. To illustrate this one need not look further than paging through this week’s edition of a section of the so-called independent media, a euphemism for white media. One would not expect a wholesome revolution but socio-cultural matters like these pageants should be the bridge towards gradual change. This change seems elusive 16 years after independence. Integration in these schools seems to be awfully slow if non-existent. One does not need to look further than to observe social gatherings at these schools where the pupils stick to their “own kind”. Not that the pupils can take much of the blame. The buck starts and ends in our own homes as parents. Only this week a Member of Parliament had a run in with racism when names like “stupid cow” rained on her. Her only sin was pressing the number of the floor she was destined to in an elevator. Now if the perpetrator of racism against this honourable member has the audacity to vent his racist feelings in public, one wonders what is not happening within the confines of his home. In the same vein it is difficult to see his children having a different attitude towards their fellows other than those with the same pigmentation as his. One would have expected school boards, school managements and school representative councils to be agents of this change but if the likes of our racist perpetrator against one of our Parliamentarians are still dominating and calling the tunes on these bodies, how much hope can we pin on them to bring change? The previously disadvantaged serving on any of these instances are either too busy to care or are just what those clinging to the status quo wanted them to be, token representatives without any mission to bring gradual change. In most cases they are without any agendas and their being on these instances are merely egoistic. When we dare point out the fallacy of integration in these schools and the lie of the representative nature school committees, etc., we are met with caricatures. Once again look no further than our white media and the ridicule the Governor of the Karas Region had to endure for daring to express herself on this matter. Even the Ministry of Education has in the past seemed oblivious to what is happening in the former white schools in terms of real integration. It seems the fact that black children now have entry to these schools plus the necessary policies of “equal access” and what have you, has been seen as mission accomplished by the ministry. It seems to have delegated the monitoring of its policies to school agencies like school boards, most of which due to their imbalanced compositions seem to have a stake in the pre-colonial status quo. A cursory look at the former white schools tells one that in a few years’ time few white faces would be seen in this school. Again the reason is too obvious to state. The immediate answer one will get at the exodus of white children from state schools that had already started is the desire of the parents to want to have the best for their children. But some of us know that in the eyes of some white parents blackness breeds lower standards. In view of the picture I just painted it is hard to dismiss accusations of racism at the Windhoek High School, and indeed, most of the former white schools, without a secondary reflection on the current state of affairs as far as integration is concerned. The latest incident offers the WHS, as well as other former white schools with a golden opportunity to look beyond this particular incident to the overall health of race relations in these schools and the depth of integration. The school authorities may prove me wrong but I strongly believe that race relations and integration in these schools have a long way to go as yet. The WHS, I believe, may be genuinely dismayed by the recent debacle but if it has kept its ears to the ground and has been apt to its task, it might have already seen the writings on the wall to make the necessary intervention. It is never late. And for black parents with children in these schools they will continue to be disinterested in these schools’ activities at the peril of their children. The Government has the necessary instruments in place but unfortunately it cannot be everywhere all the time. Parents have an equal responsibility. We cannot all the time expect the Government to fight our fights or hold it responsible for every iota of our welfare all the time. There is a limit to what the Government can do. And where it stops we must take off and carry forward and hold high the torch of a truly liberated people.