Principal condemns pupils’ attendance at anti-Israel rally

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The principal of a Khayelitsha school criticised the fact that dozens of his pupils had been bussed to an anti-Israel picket outside Parliament in Cape Town last week, saying, “Children shouldn’t be used as political tools.”
by TALI FEINBERG | Feb 20, 2020

Bulumko Secondary School Principal Gideon Skweyiya was shocked when the SA Jewish Report queried the presence of his scholars at the rally. He said that a Congress of South African Students (COSAS) leader called him last Wednesday, 12 February, asking permission for 30 pupils to take part in an anti-Israel rally outside parliament ahead of the State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Skweyiya refused, saying that the parents had not signed any indemnity forms allowing the pupils to attend. He then told them that according to a bylaw, “children cannot be at a political event during school hours”.

He told the SA Jewish Report, “We are an apolitical educational institution. We don’t let teachers or any other adult’s political views influence our learners. We don’t support events like this.”

Skweyiya’s conversation with COSAS was the last the principal heard of the matter until the SA Jewish Report queried it with him. He has no idea how his pupils landed up at the rally, in school uniform, during school hours, but he surmises that they went on their own accord, possibly with COSAS.

He is still evaluating how he will deal with the matter. “COSAS disrespected my instructions,” he said. He had clearly turned down the organisation’s request for pupils to attend the anti-Israel protest. “If children leave school on public transport on their own accord, they are taking unnecessary risks.”

He emphasised that the pupils should have “known better than to go to something they don’t know about. It’s sad that they agreed to go, but sometimes they don’t know the right questions to ask.” Indeed, when the SA Jewish Report asked the pupils (aged 14 to 16) why that were at the rally and what boycotting Israel meant, they couldn’t answer either question.

COSAS is the same organisation that placed pigs’ heads in Woolworths stores in 2014, apparently to “stop Woolworths buying products from apartheid Israel”. At the anti-Israel picket last Wednesday, a COSAS leader told the small crowd (including pupils) that “Donald Trump must go to hell, and he must know we are coming for him!” This same activist also called out “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!”

Kerry Mauchline, the spokesperson for Western Cape Education Minister Debbie Schäfer, said, “The Western Cape Education Department is investigating the circumstances of any learners’ attendance at the protest held on 12 February 2020 [from 13:00 until 15:00]. Its policy is not to allow learners to participate in political activities during teaching time.”

Rowan Polovin, the chairperson of the South African Zionist Federation, said, “The South African Schools Act prohibits political activities during school time. According to the act, this includes campaigning; the conducting of rallies; the distribution of pamphlets and fliers; and the hanging or putting up of posters and banners. Taking learners to an anti-Israel rally is a form of indoctrination. This ‘rent-a-crowd’ tactic to boost numbers demonstrates the disingenuous nature of BDS [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] supporters and the anti-Israel camp.”

Stuart Diamond, the director of the Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies, wrote to Skweyiya saying, “The Cape SA Jewish Board notes with concern the use of school youth for this agenda, especially during school hours.”

He asked the school “to turn this negative incident into a learning opportunity”, inviting pupils and educators to visit the South African Jewish Museum, the Cape Town Holocaust & Genocide Centre, and the country’s oldest synagogue at the Gardens community campus in Cape Town.

The SA Jewish Report was unable to reach COSAS for comment.

2 Comments

  1. 2 Rachelle Lurie 20 Feb
    we actually passed by the children at that time.They were standing around in a circle being taught how to protest! And in school uniform, which we thought should not be allowed (to be used as pawns!)
    Now that I read the report,we realise that the principal
    agrees with us
  2. 1 Gavin Browne 22 Feb
    Using children to promote any political agenda is not acceptable, and firm action should be taken against individuals and groups/organisations who unlawfully/immorally use/manipulate youngsters.

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