An open letter in support #PretoriaGirlsHigh from its Old Girls

We, alumni of Pretoria High School for Girls stand in solidarity with the bold and courageous learners of the school, who have spoken out about rank racial discrimination at our old school.

We are emboldened and inspired by their brave and principled stance in upholding the values the school was established on. These are encompassed in the mission statement of the founding headmistress, Ms Edith Aitken, who established the school with the honourable goal of educating young women so that we may leave our mark on the world, shape agendas and fight for equitable change when called upon. Many of the school’s alumni have answered this call over the years. Ms Aitken’s values are self-evident in many of the esteemed public figures, big and small, which spent their formative years at the school. Among these are educationists, public interest lawyers, the public health system’s doctors and nurses, and other professionals.

So, whilst many of us were familiar with some of the school’s more archaic practices in our day, it is with dismay that the country’s attention was drawn yesterday (Monday 29 August) to present-day racism, bullying and patently race-based shaming of black women’s bodies by staff at the school. Some accounts point to black staff members being demeaned as well, and so we level our dissatisfaction at the school’s poor track record with regard to transformation of the staff-body that is not commensurate to the changing body politic of the school.

We pledge our support to the crop of young women-leaders who have brought national attention to issues we are sorely aware are rampant not only at PHSG, but across the country’s Model C schools.

Girls, we are with you in spirit, minds and bodies, and we assure you that as Old Girls you have all of our support. We are here to share with you our experiences of the school and situation you find yourselves in, and are a call away should you seek any guidance, assistance and other practical services. Among us are lawyers, student activists, psychologists, doctors and members of the media. We are also academics at tertiary institutions, teachers and nurses. Call on us if you need to, but remember also: you have inspired us. There is much we’d like to learn from you, too.

Signed: (more names to follow)

1. Sibongile Hill (Class of 2002) – Medical Doctor 2.

Tidimalo Ngakane (Class of 2002) – Lawyer

3. Katy Hindle (Class of 2002) – Lawyer

4. Akhona Pearl Mehlo (Class 2002) – Lawyer

5. Janet Jobson (Class of 2002) – Civil Society

6. Angelique Terblanche (Class of 2002) – Manager

7. Letebele Tsebe (Class of 2004) – Scientist

8. Shanti Aboobaker (Class of 2004) – Journalist

9. Jocelyn Evans (Class of 2004) – Engineer

10. Nqobile Simelane (Class of 2004) – Economic Development Manager

11. Christine Emmett (Class of 2004) – Academic/Commonwealth scholar

12. Yonda Siwisa (Class of 2004) – Advertising Executive

13. Ncumisa Sakawuli (Class of 2004) – Banker

14. Anushka Singh Bhima (Class of 2004) – Lawyer

15. Linda Lesu (Class of 2004)

16. Tali Cassidy (Class of 2005) – Epidemiologist

17. Lindelwa Skenjana (Class of 2005) – Marketing

18. Nadia Ebrahim (Class of 2005) – Scientist and Teacher

19. Leila Ebrahim (Class of 2005) – Dentist

20. Diale Maepa (Class of 2007) – Medical Doctor

21. Lerissa Govender (Class of 2004) – Lawyer, Civil Society

22. Moipone Moloantoa (Class of 2004) – Advertising and Marketing

23. Carla Dennis (Class of 2002) – Actress

24. Thuli Zuma (Class of 2003)

25. Katie Miller Beyers (Class of 2002)

26. Olympia Shabangu (Class of 2002) – Lawyer

27. Pilani Bubu (Class of 2002) – Entrepreneur, Singer-Songwriter

28. Leila Badsha (Class of 2005) – Entrepreneur

29. Thabisile Tilo (Class of 2006) – Teacher

30. Danielle Kriel (Class of 2004) – Lawyer

31. Olympia Shabangu (Class of 2002) – Lawyer

32. Dina Lamb (Class of 2002)

33. Tessa Kerrich – Walker (Class of 2002) – Entrepreneur

34. Myna Pindeni (Class of 2004) – Women Empowerment Programmes Officer

35. Julia Eccles, (Class of 2003) – Advertising professional

36. Jenni Myburgh (Class of 2004) – Author and app founder

37. Erin Hommes (Class of 2004) – Activist and senior researcher

38. Jessica Schnehage (Class of 2004) – Entertainment consultant/Business Owner

39. Nuraan Muller (Class of 2000) – Director

40. Refilwe Tilo (Class of 2002) –

41. Chantelle Gilbert (Class of 2002) Restaurant owner/chef

42. Laura Ilunga (Class of 2003) – Pilot

43. Princess Magopane (class of 2002) Lawyer

44. Desré Khanyisa Barnard, 2003, Master’s student, ad hoc lecturer

45. Tshegofatso Phala, 2004, Pro Bono Attorney and Human rights activist

46. Lethabo Maboi (Class of 2003) Creative Director at Styled By Boogy

47. Sanja Bornman (Class of 2000) Lawyer

48. Dieketseng Boshielo (Mokake) (Class of 2002) – Entrepreneur, supply chain & logistics

49. Palesa Motau (Class of 2004) Stakeholder Manager

50. Zimkhitha Malgas (class of 2005) procurement/logistics coordinator

51. Trish Stewart (class of 2004) advertising

52. Jessica Schnehage – (Class of 2004) Entertainment Consultant / Business Owner

53. Leila Badsha (Class of 2005) Entrepreneur

54. Maropeng Ralenala, 2003, Clinical Psychologist

55. Renée Hlozek, 2001, Professor of Astrophysics, University of Toronto

56. Kopano Marumo, 2003, Writer

57. Nobantu Nhantsi (Class of 2004) – Community Programme Co-ordinator

58. Shiluba Mawela (Class of 2004) – Impact Investor

59. Dr Francoise L.Y Goga (Class of 2006) – Medical doctor

60. Marli Roode (Class of 2001) – Author and journalist

61. Kuraisha Patel (Class of 2010) – Lawyer

62. Meka Ravenhill (Class of 2002) – Partner/Owner of Ravenhill Productions SA

63. Caileigh Pentz (Class of 2005) Industrial Designer

64. Katie-Lynne Roebert (Class of 2004) Lecturer in Higher Education

65. Amy Schoeman (Class of 2002) – Product developer

66. Dr Francoise L.Y Goga (class of 2006)- medical doctor

67. Oreratile Mogoai (Class of 2006) Research Specialist

68. Karin Heijboer ( Class of 1998)

69. Estee Burger (Class 2002) Brand Manager – South African Breweries

70. Fikile Nkosi (Class of 1998) HR Consultant – Archway Consulting

71. Ingrid Cloete (Class of 2005) – Lawyer

72. Larissa Meckelburg nee Focke (Class of 2001) MA student at Freie Universität Berlin

73. Jana van den Munckhof (Class of 2002) – Minister

74. Sithabile Mokgokong (Class of 1998) – Interior Architect

75. Meg Hendry (Class of 1998) Reflexologist

76. Sarah Richmond (Class of 2002) – University Lecturer

77. Bridget Corrigan (Class of 2002) Conservation Manager

78. Jane-Anne Kokkinn (Class of 2003) Film Producer

79. Lusanda Shimange (Class of 1998) OBGYN

80. Makosha Maja, (Class of 2000) Head of Insight (M&C Saatchi Abel)

81. Pamela Ilunga (Class of 1999) HR Director

82. Lebogang Mahlare Chemical Engineer

83. Jade Perumal (class of 2005), Operations Manager

84. Sanja Bornman (Class of 2000) Gender Rights Lawyer at Lawyers For Human Rights.

85. Genevieve Cator (Class of 1984) Former staff member at PHSG and Publisher

 

Cool kid on campus

FIERCE: Mongezi Mkhonto is this week's cool kid on campus. Photo: Mokgethwa Masemola

FIERCE: Mongezi Mkhonto is this week’s cool kid on campus.
Photo: Mokgethwa Masemola

“I never get worried of being too much because I don’t think I’m too much. Whenever I think something is too much that’s when I know it’s not me.” Within those few words is the spirit of this week’s cool kid.

Mongezi

Mongezi Mkhonto Photo: Mokgethwa Masemola

Mongezi Mkhonto
Photo: Mokgethwa Masemola

Mkhonto is a 21-year old Bachelor of Accounting Science student in his second year. But it is what he does outside the classroom that makes him so cool. Hailing from the East Rand, Mkhonto had aspirations of working in a corporate environment, but after completing matric at the National School of the Arts (NSA) in Johannesburg, his dreams became very different.

 

Soon after starting his studies at Wits, he visited a local cosmetics store, where he saw celebrity make-up artist, Muzi Zuma, and he was instantly inspired. Since then, he has cultivated his passion for make-up to the extent that he intends on working in the beauty and media industry after completing his studies.

Mkhonto describes himself as someone who is fun, expressive, artistic and energetic. He spends his spare time on Instagram looking at beauty trends and playing the violin. “My general escape is the art of make-up,” he said.

Despite how difficult he thought campus life would be, Mkhonto finds that he enjoys it and he has been embraced by a lot of people. His time at NSA taught him how to deal with different kinds of personalities and so he can easily brush off negativity.

“A lot of people will be really negative but they are not gonna do it to my face, because (of) the way I carry myself. People only show me love because I only carry love and beautiful energies,” said Mkhonto.

Slice of Life: How much longer?

IMG_0765 (2)Thabo*, a student I knew at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, had once applied to the Dean of Humanities to allow him to take a certain combination of subjects. His choice of subjects was quite complicated and his request was rarely agreed to. Thabo though was a high-performing student who had achieved top marks throughout his university career and so it seemed obvious that he would be granted permission.

He had heard of this combination from a classmate of his, (Kate*), who was recently allowed to pick up these subjects. To our surprise, the Dean declined his request, citing marks that did not quite meet the requirements for such a combination. Both Thabo and his classmate were doing the same degree with the same subjects for the first two years at Rhodes, but Kate’s marks were much lower than that of Thabo’s. Naturally, questions of race surfaced and specifically why it was that a white student with lower marks was allowed to take this combination of subjects while a black student couldn’t. The incident revealed to me the issue of white mediocrity in this country.

How much longer will we continue to celebrate white mediocrity? How much longer should black people, women and other minority groups have to work twice as hard to receive half of the recognition and reward offered to whites and men that are clearly not worth it?

How much longer will our lecturers, mentors, tutors, and academic institutions repress the black child? The very same people who are meant to be moulding a new cohort of intellectually, socially, financially and personally “woke” young graduates, are the very same people using their power to ostracize them and belittle their work. I am tired of watching my peers treated as though they can never amount to anything simply because their lecturers do not like them. Academic spaces are supposed to be a hub of intellectual, mature individuals who concern themselves only with the expansion of knowledge and yet this is not the case.

How much longer will it take for the LGBTIQA+ community to be free in their own home? To have the social – not just legal – right to embrace their love, their personhood and their right to belong? It is inconceivable to me that in 2016, people are being killed, raped, heckled and kept out of certain spaces purely because of who or what they are.

How much longer?

How much longer will black knowledge and history be regarded as second grade to western thought? Ours is a rich history shaped by intellectuals and leaders who have transformed what it means to be black and to be African. These are the stories that have to be told in universities, schools, churches and social spaces. For it is in celebrating the fact that we can produce knowledge of a sound and intellectually superior standard, that we are able to move forward as black people.

How much longer until minority groups can rise up and create for themselves a system that embraces them, a system that not only nurtures them but allows them to flourish and realise their truest potentials? In the wake of collective student movements, we must become the leaders we so desperately need, leaders who can recognize their faults, admit that they have failed and yield power others when it is necessary.

How much longer?