School sorry about its tone

Wynberg Boys’ Junior School has apologised for a warning letter sent to parents of a Grade 1 pupil for their son’s “unacceptable” hairstyle, saying in a statement posted on its Facebook page that it is the tone of this letter, not the school’s request to the parents, that caused offence.

In the letter, sent on Thursday July 27, the school objected to the child’s hair being cut with a “ step” and gave Ngqiqo Mahlutshana, father of 7-year-old pupil Lebone Ramedupe, until Monday July 31 to have his son’s hair cut or face “disciplinary action”.

Mr Mahlutshana said he found the letter to be bullying, intimidating and also very prescriptive.

The school posted a statement on its Facebook page on July 31 to clarify the matter.

Mr Mahlutshana met school principal Cedric Poleman on Friday July 28. Mr Mahlutshana said the matter had been resolved and
there would be no change to his son’s hairstyle.

Lebone’s mother, Rachel Ramedupe, said she was satisfied with the way the school had dealt with the matter to date.

“We are happy with the fact that they called us into a meeting and let us know they have an open-door policy.

“They have agreed they will not pursue what was contained in the letter sent to us and they will not treat our child any differently,” said Mr Mahlutshana.

In the Facebook statement, Mr Poleman said at the start of each new term they closely monitor the general appearance of their boys in terms of uniform and hair in accordance with the school policy.

Letters are sent to families should any remedial action be required.

“In terms of the communication sent to the families, an example of which was shared to social media, our school’s wording
of the notification is something that has been highlighted as a problem for which we have apologised.

It is the tone of this letter, not the school’s request to the parents, that caused offence,” he said.

Mr Poleman said the matter was resolved amicably during Friday’s meeting.

“While it is regrettable that this situation has been misconstrued on social media, and even by some of the main news networks, we seize this as an opportunity to accelerate our efforts to maintain and develop the ethos of respect at the heart
of our diversity.

“We will continue to examine and revise the way our policies are communicated, and the way that they are interpreted and applied to ensure that they are fair to all.

These policies are approved by the school governing body, and are by no means the opinion of any one member of staff.

“Wynberg Boys’ Junior School, and our brother school Wynberg Boys’ High, entered into an in-depth social cohesion review in
January 2016, a process in which we continue to address, discuss and amend our policies.

“We pride ourselves on the inclusive and consultative approach by which we shape our ethos; an inclusivity of all role-players, our boys, families, staff and old boys.

“Part of our 2016 Parent Survey identified a need for a fresh look at how we communicate with our families. This incident reminds us that there is still work to be done, and highlights a gap between review and implementation of our work so far. This we will prioritise.
“Wynberg Boys’ Junior School is proud to be a leading inclusive school in which all cultures and creeds are accepted and respected.

While our transformation journey began pre-1994, we see it as a continuous process – this incident strengthens our resolve to ensure that every aspect of our life reflects these values,” Mr Poleman said.

Responding to comments posted on the school’s Facebook page, Mr Mahlutshana said on Tuesday August 2 while he is happy with the manner in which the matter regarding his son was handled, it equally exposed the thinking of many South Africans and how they view issues of race and policy.

“Any policy is determined by those present during the drafting process and the majority view.

Every policy is right for those that have drafted it or were the majority voice during the drafting process.

It is right for those that are not negatively affected by it.

“However, more than anything else what needs to be the guiding point is what is the objective of the policy,” he posted. “Policies are necessary in any society or environment, they help maintain order and protect the views of the majority voices within the environment.

Whether a policy is right or wrong can be determined by a number of factors including whether you fit in
the majority voice which it aims to protect or whether you fit within the population it is meant to conform.

How we respond to it at the end is determined by our realities.”

Spokesperson for Education MEC Debbie Schäfer, Jessica Shelver said it was important that all schools ensure that their codes of conduct represented an inclusive society in line with the values of the constitution.

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