Press release for immediate release

3 June 2014

The National School of the Arts responds to allegations of teacher racism.
The National School of the Arts, ranked among the country’s Top 25 public schools, has expressed its
dismay at today’s media reports of a teacher’s racism.
“We are taking this allegation extremely seriously and have commenced an internal investigation.
Should the allegation prove true, appropriate steps will be taken. We will not tolerate even a hint of
racism in our school,” says Brenda Sakellarides, Chair of school’s governing body.
“This school epitomises social cohesion, and we pride ourselves that its demographics are a perfect
reflection of the country. Excellence in arts, academics and values-based active citizenry are
cornerstones of the school’s ethos. Critically, as the country’s leading arts school, it is a school that
recognises and nurtures a strong sense of individuality, with learners exploring, expressing and
celebrating our cultural diversity in all spheres of the school’s activities. ”
Sakellarides noted concern at some immediately obvious inaccuracies in the report, including that
two parents visited the school yesterday to complain about the teacher’s alleged misconduct.
“We have had no visits or complaints from parents in this regard – not yesterday or today as the
article indicated we would. In fact, we are most distressed that the mother in question addressed
her concerns through the media without any prior discussion with the school. We encourage active
engagement with parents on all matters to do with their children’s wellbeing and progress in the
school, and this media report is the first knowledge we have of any parents’ or learners’ allegations
of this nature.”
The NSA’s early investigation indicates the possibility that the learner could have misconstrued class
discussions. For example, the teacher in question, who holds a Master’s Degree in Apartheid History,
was teaching the origins of racism. She commented that the earliest Europeans to arrive on South
Africa’s shores – as with other ‘new’ countries that were being ‘discovered’ during that era – in their
ignorance often viewed indigenous populations as savages and, in some cases, demons due to their
traditional dress and demeanour. The teacher states that at no stage did she call Black people
demons, but used the word in addressing the historical context of the origins of racism.
The matter of hair colour arose because one learner arrived at school with hair in direct
contravention of the school dress code which states: ‘No exaggerated or extreme hair colours or
styles.” When addressing this with the learner in class, she said learners should stick to ‘natural hair
colours’, which can include blond, red, black or brown but not, for example, purple or green.
“We are extremely distressed at the reputational damage done to this fine school, which prides itself
on producing extraordinary young people who go on to achieve great heights in the arts, creative
industries and beyond – people equipped to inspire and lead,” continued Sakellarides. “It is notable
that in the 2013 Mail & Guardian Top Young South African Achievers awards, five recipients were
NSA Alumni - two for Environment, one for the Arts, one for Sport and one for Civil Society.”
Other NSA Alumni include:
 Charlize Theron – Oscar-winning actress
 Mark Bouwer- New York-based world-famous fashion designer
 Rhian Touyuz - Director of the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences at the
University of Glasgow and British Heart Foundation Chair of Cardiovascular Medicine
 Dan Patlansky – musical maestro, opening act for Bruce Springsteen’s 2014 SA Tour
 Dada Masila – world-renowned dancer and choreographer, currently touring Europe and
 Thabang Motsei – news anchor and field reporter for Russia’s RT (Russia Today) TV Network
– their only African female anchor
 Bianca le Grange – Idols runner-up, singer/actress, Naledi Best Actress Award 2014
 Jeannie Dee – TV show host
 Kgomotso Christopher & Xolile Tshabalala – soapie actors
 Lorna Maseko-Lukhele – ballet dancer, choreographer and TV presenter
 Lisa Sacks – leading UK Plastic Surgeon and internationally recognized sculptor
 Alex Trapani – international award-wining artist and Fellow of Ampersand Foundation, New
 Kai Lossgott & Gerhard Marx – acclaimed SA artists
 Ingrid Bianca Bylerly – Professor of Ethnomusicology at Duke University in the USA
 Robyn Sarah Scott – winner of Best Actress award at the 2013 Edinburgh Festival
 Karen Botha & Samantha Cutler – visual supervisors for SA’s animation hit movie, Khumba
 Mzwandile Ngubeni – actor, TV show host and Producer
 Meren Reddy, Carl Beukes, Candace Derman, Sibusiso Radebe – award-winning actors
 Karen Zoid, Kyla Rose Smith (Freshly Ground), Snotkop, Afrika Mkhize, Axene, Leanne Kistan-
Dlamini, Samson Diamond – popular SA musicians, winners of several SAMA awards
 Glynnis Gordon-Eames – Artistic Director of Centenary Dance Academy, Australia
 Prof Frederico Freschi – Executive Dean of FADA (Fine arts, Design & Architecture) at
University of Johannesburg
 Jo Katsaras – international multi-award winning film costume designer: nominated for an
Emmy for Outstanding Costumes for a Series, a Guild of America award for Outstanding
Contemporary Costumes and winner of the Madame Figaro ‘Woman of the Year’ award in
the Creative category.
Alumni and learners have today rallied in support of the school. Typifying the sentiment, a comment
posted on Facebook today by an Alumni member reads – ‘All teachers I met were top
quality….That’s the one school where ALL people are respected!’
“We assure parents and the public that we take the learner’s allegations seriously. We will get to the
bottom of this and take whatever action is necessary,” concluded Sakellarides.

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