Martizburg College pupils’ EFF views stir debate

Durban – A debate on whether pupils should be allowed to express their political views took the spotlight on social media when two Maritzburg College matric pupils were charged with inciting violence for brandishing politically-branded T-shirts at the school.

They face six counts, including racism and violating the Schools Act.

The department will investigate allegations of racism at the school.

On Friday, a picture of three Grade 12 pupils in Maritzburg College uniform with a T-shirt brandishing the message, “EFF, our last hope of getting our land back”, went viral on social media.

Read: Maritzburg College pupils, EFF and the land, what’s the problem Kevin?

According to the Schools Act, political activities are prohibited at public schools. The boys are expected to face a disciplinary hearing later this month.

Kwazi Mthethwa, Education Department spokesperson, said it was investigating the circumstances that led to the developments and the manner in which the school management team handled such matters.

One of the boys who was charged was called the K-word by a prefect at the school earlier this year.

A source at the school said the victim was not happy with the punishment of community service meted to the prefect, believing it was too lenient.

While there were mixed reactions to the post, most re-directed the criticism to parents.

Also read: EFF backs charged ‘land back’ schoolboys

Professor Labby Ramrathan, director of the School of Education Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Westville, said while political engagement existed at tertiary institutions, children at school were too immature to have political affiliations and this could have a bad impact on education.

He said regulating how pupils used social media was difficult for parents and schools.

“It is a snowballing situation that needs urgent interventions.”

This could be done through the stricter application of the school policies and disciplinary actions, said Ramrathan.

He said parents should, however, take major control. Parents needed to discourage racism at home.

Vee Gani, the KZN Parents’ Association chairperson, said: “I do not know the background of these boys or how they were brought up, but I do not think that their parents would have asked them to do such a thing.”

He said their parents sent them to school to get an education and that was why schools should not have a place for politics.

He blamed political parties and warned them to be cautious how they used their campaigns.

Also read: #MaritzCollege: Pupil defends EFF logo T-shirt

“What these pupils did in that school uniform reflected on the image of the school. It drags the school to that political ideology,” he said.

He felt the disciplinary action should not be put on hold for exams. He urged pupils to use social media responsibly.

Emma Sadleir, a social media law expert, said while everyone had rights to freedom of speech, these became limited if they infringed upon others.

“Schools have a code of conduct and one particularly important one is not to bring the school into disrepute,” she said.

The EFF demanded that the charges against the pupils be dropped with immediate effect or “face the full might of our mass power”.

Daily News