Portland High’s principal has called for calm after a “cultural incident was blown out of proportion”.
After a pupil is said to have “received a calling from their ancestors”, Ridwaan Williams assured parents, staff and pupils that the situation was under control after it went viral online on Tuesday February 22.
In a letter sent to parents, he outlined what had happened and noted that “the matter was handled with sensitivity”.
“We had pupils informing us of the ‘calling from their ancestors’. Unfortunately due to a lack of knowledge, some pupils informed their parents of the incident without proper background information.
“This created panic amongst some parents to come to school to collect their children. Posts on social media, claiming all sorts of untruths about the incident must be condemned with the contempt it deserves,” he said.
This was a cultural incident that was blown out of proportion, Mr Williams added.
“As a fully integrated school, we have pupils from all walks of life, all religions are respected, cultural diversity is valued and our motto is that we’re a school for all pupils who want to pursue knowledge,” he said.
A parent who did not want to named in the paper said she didn’t feel comfortable talking about what happened as one of her family members had also “been called”.
“We should continue having respect for one another as we are a unit. The school could have done more to prevent the hysteria but I am glad it is under control now. I hope in future we can start a conversation on this,” she said.
Another parent who also didn’t want to be identified, said she would like the school to have “security who will monitor the school thoroughly and in a stricter manner”.
“My main concern was my children and the rest of the school pupils. In future we want to be notified immediately of any of these occurrences in future,” she said.
Bronagh Hammond, spokeswoman for the Western Cape Education Department, confirmed that a pupil at the school is alleged to have had a “spiritual calling” at the school on Tuesday February 22.
This happened in the presence of other pupils and the parents of the pupil were contacted and they collected their child, she said.
“Unfortunately, incorrect stories did the rounds on social media which caused panic among parents who started fetching their children from the school.”
The school dismissed the pupils early due to the disruption caused.
The district will be providing the school with necessary counselling support, said Ms Hammond.
“No school can intervene in spiritual matters as they are not equipped to do so. The pupils need to address this with their parents and their spiritual healer according to their family rituals. It is not uncommon for schools to call the parents of the pupil to be taken home until they are ready to return. No calling is identical and requires the professional support required for that particular calling,” said Ms Hammond.
Schools must respect and acknowledge that all pupils have different belief systems, however, the primary purpose of schools is for academic reasons, she said.
“Schools need to ensure that any religion or spiritual belief system does not disrupt the core business of the classroom, and that is teaching and learning. If they do, this needs to be treated on a case by case basis, taking into account the pupils’ well-being and that of the other pupils,” said Ms Hammond.