GEORGE NEWS - The Eden and Central Karoo Education District hosted a successful seminar about cultural bias and related issues last Saturday, 27 July. The seminar, held at Tramonto in Geelhoutboom, was attended by over 300 stakeholders.
According to organiser Roger Jacobs, head of specialised learner and educator support, 319 members of school management teams (SMT) and a few post-level one educators attended the sessions.
The issues discussed were cultural bias and related issues at school. Jacobs says the main outcomes were to prepare the way forward to ensure that schools provide a home for all.
Jacobs says schools are becoming increasingly more complex as they mirror the current socio-economic landscape driven by rapid demographic and technological changes, as well as by changing family structures and demands on households. "As a result, many schools battle to come to terms with the diversity presenting in schools and classrooms. We believe that all children are entitled to feel safe and experience a sense of unconditional acceptance at school, whether through a genuine love of learning, through building positive friendships and relationships, or through feeling a sense of belonging in the community and wider society."
The day started with a short opening by Jewel Jonkers, head of Management and Governance, poems by Denovia Seconds and Lee-Ann Soko of the George High School, and a broad outlay of the aims of the seminar by senior psychologist Gawie Raubenheimer. "The key speakers included myself and Professor Quinton Johnson who in his dynamic and humorous manner entertained the crowd with truths pertaining to the subject. I engaged the crowd by unpacking cultural bias and practical ways on how to address the issue," says Jacobs.
Jacobs believes that changes will have to intrinsically address preconceived judgement and fear to ensure an inclusive ethos and culture at the school. He says the ethnic, racial, cultural, religious, and language diversity in South African schools is forcing educators and policymakers to rethink existing notions of education and discipline. To experience cultural democracy and freedom, a nation must be unified around a set of democratic values such as justice and equality that balances unity and diversity and protects the rights of diverse groups. Jacobs used Nelson Mandela and Johnny Clegg as two legends that managed to change the way many people thought about racial integration and inclusion. He said most people are unconsciously biased against people who are different from themselves. "Our brains have been hardwired to distinguish between different groups. If left unchecked, we can display negative thoughts and emotions towards other cultures which influence our expectations and judgement of others."
Melta Potjo, psychologist at the education department, zoomed in on stereotyping. During the last few years the department witnessed incidences at Pretoria Girls High School when girls protested the code of conduct of the school prescribing the neatness and length of hair, which according to the protesters discriminated against black and coloured learners. The girls said school rules prohibited African hairstyles such as afros, Bantu knots, dreadlocks, and braids.
The Eden and Central Karoo Education District plan to run similar seminars in the future to sensitise educators in all schools on inclusion of all learners into a friendly environment proving a home for all learners and educators. "This not just an issue that so-called ex-model C schools grapple with, but all schools face similar challenges."
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