26/09/2017 10:19 BST | Updated 26/09/2017 10:19 BST

Committee Set Up To Tackle Diversity And Transformation At St John's College

"We have to push forward so that St John's becomes a school in the South African context."


St John's College, which had been embroiled in a race row in July and August, has established a new committee to tackles issues of diversity and address transformation.

"Ultimately if there is no true commitment to transformation and diversity in all regards addressing racism, homophobia, sexism and so on then this is just another talk-shop," said new committee member and #OpenStJohn's organiser Mabine Seabe.

"I foresee that there will be a few disagreements, but we have to push forward so that St John's becomes a school in the South African context."

#OpenStJohn's movement was formed after racial tensions erupted and its objective was to hold the school to account.

The new committee, called the Independent Representative Interim Committee (IRIC) was implemented last week at St John's College.

In July, Geography teacher Keith Arlow was found guilty of racist remarks towards South African black, Indian, Greek and foreign students. He was given a final written warning but was retained by the school. This caused public outrage as many believed that Arlow got a slap on the wrist for a serious offence. He later resigned.

Geography teacher Keith Arlow is alleged to have:

The #OpenStJohns movement later demanded the resignations of school council chair Jon Patricios and headmaster Paul Edey for their lack of measures to protect pupils. They still remain at the helm of the school.

At a town hall meeting last month where learners, teachers, alumni and management gathered, the head of the previous council apologised to learners who were victims of Arlow.

On Tuesday, the #OpenStJohn's movement said it was still committed to transformation and redress.

Seabe and Edey are among those elected to the new committee, which is chaired Lavery Modise, an individual with no ties to the school.

Seabe said he wanted every committee member to help create an environment which is conducive to learning at the school.

"I think it [is] a responsible position for the school to take...I don't think they should use it as a PR opportunity because in the past we had a town hall meeting which we saw as just a PR stunt," he said.

"In history I recall doing extensive modules on WWI and WWII and so on, but not much focus on Africa's politics or South Africa's politics"

Seabe spoke of his own experience at the school and highlighted the importance of changing the syllabus with modern times so that pupils could relate to it.

"They need to have a better world view, so I would like to see in terms of the English literature that there is a greater emphasis on our South African and African literature," he said.

He wanted pupils to have an understanding of South African politcians rather than international history.