JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA, October 11, 2012 (The Star): Parents of several pupils at Parkdene Primary School in Boksburg assert their children have suffered racial discrimination and verbal abuse because they wore red strings around their wrists, as part of their Hindu religion.
For years parents had been afraid to speak out, from fears of retaliation against their children. One third-grade boy's parents overcame that fear and objected to the principal, claiming his music teacher (the principal's wife) had shouted racial and derogatory slurs at him because he was wearing a red string around his wrist as part of his Hindu religion. They claim their son was ordered to take off the string and called a "coolie" several times in front of his classmates by his teacher--a racism hell that this student has endured since Grade 1, when that teacher first noticed the string and ordered him to remove it. But despite several such complaints, nothing had been done. The parents were told their son should wear a jersey to hide the red string.
Desperate to get help for their son, who has been refusing to go to school, the couple took the matter to Gauteng Education MEC Barbara Creecy. The department is now investigating the matter. Other parents have since come forward, saying the problem has persisted for over two years, and other children are being threatened and verbally abused by the same teacher--the only teacher in the school that has a problem with the red string.
The principal apologized to the parents on Wednesday, saying the matter had been sorted out and the pupil could wear his red string; he would not have to cover it with a jersey. But this response, coming only after intervention by authorities, does not satisfy the angry parents, who say he is not fit to be a principal, nobody using abusive language and name-calling should be allowed to teach, and no child should be made to hide his cultural or traditional beliefs.
The principal has refused to comment, saying the department was dealing with the matter.