By Melissa Malunga,20
As a child, your opinion is not considered important, many times your view is considered
imaginative. Your innocence portrays an image of naivety to the things around you. Though true
to an extent, there lies another truth, which is though a child is innocent they are not ignorant.
Children may be the greatest observers in existence as every event or instance that affects how
they feel, especially negatively will be greatly remembered. Such a truth was birthed in me at a
tender age of 9. Growing up in a country that was birthed from racial oppression and wars, such
a topic couldn’t be avoided. Always being reminded that the freedom we possessed came from
the oppression of your ancestors, I didn’t understand the depth of that statement until I changed
As I grew older, umama always taught me to treat everyone equally. That God created us all in
his image and with love. As such it didn’t matter what you looked like or where you came from.
What mattered was the person you were becoming. Because of such, I was shielded from the
reality that existed around. As the new year rolled in, I walked through the school gates with a
new excitement of making the place my new home. Eager to meet new people and grow
academically. The first two years made that dream a reality, as I instantly clicked with many
people, especially with Micheala and Keketso. Our bond was much stronger and passionate.
However, it never settled well with me as to why many of the others who looked like Micheala
always refrained from speaking to people like Keketso and I, however I always dismissed that
thought, being grateful for the best friends I had. As the third year approached, the entire
dynamic changed. Micheala began to distance herself from us, finding comfortability with her
kind. It never bothered me at first, but little incidents that occurred affected me in a way I had
never imagined. And the matter worsened when our third grade teacher began to treat us
differently. Being a sickling, I would find myself in and out of class on a monthly basis, which
took a toll on my grades and my mother’s time, but she never grew frustrated instead showered
me with more love and sympathy, however my teacher didn’t act so. As vividly as I can
remember, she always had a habit of treating me differently than she did to others, and it was
clear when she told me step three steps away from her when she was marking my books or
addressing my issues even though she never instigated such an action towards my peers,
sidelining me from certain activities which others were allowed to participate. It was clear she
had a fondness for those of her kind. Though I let it slide, a mark of hurt had been indented into
my heart. I always believed what my mother told me, I held her words dear to my heart. So much
so I believed everyone else around me saw the same.
That when I won eisteddfod competitions and certificate in excellence in Afrikaans, that people
would celebrate with me in my achievements and not downplay their children’s achievement
because a black girl won the competition and not them, people who originated from that
communication. That by relocating schools, I wouldn’t be told to sit at the back because of the
colour of my skin or be placed next to the black child and not the white one. As a child you view
your teachers as heroes, as second parents who will help you grow. It’s disheartening to witness
that the same people who are meant to protect you are those who attack you. Making snide
remarks of your culture. Depicting you as crime perpetrators in school books. It’s awfully
disheartening to recognize that even after years being of an apartheid- free nation, we still face
the same discomfort our ancestors faced in their time, but only that ours takes place in an
institution of education. That even though we speak out, our voices are silenced by the system.
That some parents are afraid to speak out because of the mental bondage they still walk around
with every day that no matter what, such actions are alright, that the teacher in regards to the
student is always right, for the fear that we’ll get expelled or suspended if we speak out. Our
opinions are not considered as the desire to rule and control still exists in our institutions. As
such as the victims we are left with mental health issue such as depressions and the fruits of such
may lead to death of the student through suicide. Also, a negative self-image of oneself is
developed hence clouding the person’s judgement on their abilities.
As such, the anti- racism policies in school I desire to see are, firstly, curriculums should be set
to help us interact with different people from different cultures and races. To engage in activities
where we learn about the beauty of our cultures and the importance of where we come from. To
not be segregated from other races, but to be allowed to form interracial friendships.
Secondly, people who are at offense, should be reprimanded accordingly and that correction
handed out to the guilty should not differ. To be given resources about racism and how it
affected our past and how we should respond to its changes. Teachers should be trained on how
to set the right learning environment, how to address students and how to speak about race. To
acknowledge students for their abilities and not their skin tone. Assumptions on what’s suited for
which race should be removed.
Lastly, schools should not omit the history of students of colour. Events of the past should be
given in detail, suitable to that particular age group, in order for them to understand where such
treatment originated from and the effects it had. This could be done by having a movie session or
conducting book reviews on books that explain our history. Also, Anti-Racism committees
should be formed in order to introduce ideas that will help combat racism in schools, and Parents
should be addressed on these activities during PTA meetings as it is known that no child is born
hating someone, it is learnt by who they see and listen to.
In conclusion, certain ideologies will be changed. Schools will become an environment students
grow not only as intellects but as good and responsible human beings. As Ghandi once spoke,
” we should be the change we desire to see in the world”.
By Melissa Malunga,20