THE INDEPENDENT REPRESENTATIVE INTERIM COMMITTEE INITIATIVE

1. INTRODUCTION

In the history of St John's College, the difficult experience of the past three months, relating to the matter of the teacher who was found guilty of making racially derogatory and inappropriate remarks to black learners, is unprecedented. It has been a challenging and testing period for the school's leadership, for staff and pupils, as well as the broader College community.

However, with the guidance and leadership of the College Visitor, Council has been able to restore stability at the school, with measures put in place to ensure the good name of St John's College will be restored. Many lessons have been learnt since the crisis started. It is the hope and prayer of many that, in the process, the community will emerge better and stronger because of this incident.

2. BACKGROUND

The Council met on 31 July 2017, to address the distressing circumstances prevailing in the school community at the time, as a result of the media coverage and public criticism of the school leadership's handling of the racism matter. The unfolding crisis caused fractures in the school community, to a point where the August Council meeting had to be held off-site as there were threats of demonstrations and disruption if it was held on college premises.

At this meeting, Council resolved to acknowledge the process of handling the matter was flawed, that the school did not institute a disciplinary process as soon as the investigation was completed and, among other missteps, did not keep the broader community appropriately informed of the process, and did not appreciate the impact of the matter on the school community as a whole.

Through the Visitor, Council unreservedly apologised for the racially derogatory and inappropriate remarks made by the teacher, the way in which the process was handled, and especially the hurt of the boys and parents. Council acknowledged that these errors and unintended consequences caused deep hurt, distrust and division among college stakeholders, also accepting that the flaws in this process has shaken the faith placed in the school, which Council resolved to restore.

To rebuild trust and bridge the divisions caused, Council resolved to take the following urgent steps:

2.1 Immediate structured engagement with the school community;

A number of key voices within the school community were invited to a Town Hall meeting with a representative group of Council members, on Wednesday 02 August 2017. These groups ranged from a concerned parents group to an #OpenStJohns petition reflecting some Old Johannians, staff, pupil and parents. The primary purpose of the meeting was to hear from all stakeholder groups, and to share an account of how the process unfolded. Council representatives ensured the concerns and views expressed were conveyed to the full Council at an extraordinary meeting held at the beginning of the Michaelmas term.

2.2 A rigorous transformation and diversity process, which includes a review of the policies and procedures within the college;

This task would focus particularly on policies pertaining to racism, sexism, homophobia and misogyny, and how they are implemented to protect everyone but most particularly pupils; Unequivocal rejection of all forms of racism, sexism, homophobia and misogyny; and

Although rejection of all forms of racism and unconscious bias are implicit in our school motto of Lux Vita Caritas and our vision to create an environment in which our pupils can live their lives to the full, learn accountability, fulfil their potential, and reach their dreams, we acknowledge that in our country our rejection of racism needs to be explicit.

2.3. A critical analysis of the governance structures within the school to ensure that we have the capacity and resources to take the school forward.

In 2016, St John's reconstituted a Transformation and Diversity Committee. Focus groups were established under this committee in the following areas:

It was acknowledged that progress through this committee was not communicated appropriately. There was an absence of a tailored complaints procedure for pupils to report allegations of racism, bullying or harassment, and the need for amendments to the disciplinary procedure to take account of circumstances in which pupils are required to testify in a disciplinary hearing to fulfil the requirements of natural justice.

Council acknowledged that this matter had caused some members of our community to question the leadership and governance of the school. As with many aspects of this matter, these questions have divided the different stakeholders in our community. Council committed to reflect on leadership and governance as it has a duty to do so responsibly, and after due consideration of all relevant facts and voices in the community.

3. ESTABLISHMENT OF INDEPENDENT REPRESENTATIVE INTERIM COMMITTEE (IRIC)

Following a number of consultative meetings with parents, staff, pupil representatives and various Old Johannian interest groups, to agree on a way forward, Council agreed to draft the Terms of Reference to establish the above-mentioned committee. The aim of the committee would be to:

3.1 Anti-Racism Policy

Review and further develop a statement and policy on anti-racism and all forms of discrimination.

3.2 Governance

Assess and review all relevant governance structures of St John's College, with a particular focus on transformation and diversity to achieve the objective of being an inclusive and diverse world-class Christian school in and for Africa. This includes a review of the constitutions, composition and functioning of the following structures:

3.2.1 The Council (including the Executive Committee and sub-committees); and

3.2.2 The current Transformation and Diversity Committee and its functioning. This shall include a review of the work of the Committee to date and, where necessary, the identification of changes and the development of recommendations in regard to:

3.2.2.1 Staff — recruitment, development;
3.2.2.2 Students — admissions;
3.2.2.3 Culture, symbols and community ethos;
3.2.2.4 Community engagement;
3.2.2.5 Parent community;
3.2.2.6 Relevant curriculum.

3.3 Policies

To assess and review all policies of St John's College to ensure they are fair, appropriate and aligned to the values espoused by St John's College. In particular, the IRIC should focus on policies and procedures to ensure the elimination of all forms of bigotry and prejudice in the school.

Policies pertaining to grievance and disciplinary procedures should be assessed and reviewed.

A comprehensive and effective complaints procedure for students to report allegations of racism, bullying or harassment should be developed.

3.4 Stakeholder Survey

The IRIC shall receive the results of an independent and professionally conducted survey of all stakeholders in the St John's College community commissioned by Council.

The survey shall include the following stakeholders:

The survey shall be conducted electronically and should also disaggregate groupings in terms of race and gender to ensure the views of all stakeholders are obtained. The survey will guarantee anonymity.

The results of this survey will be communicated to all stakeholders who participated in the survey and may provide input into the work of the IRIC.

4. NOMINATIONS AND APPOINTMENT OF IRIC MEMBERS

On 22 September, the Visitor announced the establishment of the Independent Representative Interim Committee (IRIC).

The committee is comprised of a Chair and an additional 24 members, 12 of whom were nominated by the existing St John's College Council, and 12 of whom are representative of the stakeholders of St John's College.

The Visitor appointed Mr Lavery Modise as Chairman of IRIC. Members of the St John's community were already familiar with Mr Modise – he facilitated the Town Hall meeting on 2 August 2017 where the IRIC was first proposed by Council and agreed to by stakeholders.

Mr Modise was briefed on the IRIC's terms of reference and has extensive mediation experience. He is Chairman of Hogan Lovells South Africa, with a focus on all aspects of employment and labour law, and represents clients in all courts up to the Constitutional Court. He has periodically been called on to act as a judge of the Labour Court, and has acted as arbitrator and mediator in labour-related matters for several corporate and government institutions.

Some 40 nominations, submitted by 265 different members of the community were received, and all nominees were thanked for their willingness to give freely of their time to the St John's community. The nominees appointed to serve on IRIC were selected by the Visitor on the basis of the criteria described in the IRIC terms of reference. The 24 appointed committee members are:

4.1 STAKEHOLDER NOMINEES

4.2 COUNCIL NOMINEES

4.3 MEETINGS

The committee convenes one meeting each week. Meetings commenced on 7 October 2017 and will continue until the end of November 2017, by which time it is expected the work of the committee will be completed, and if not, there is provision in the IRIC TORs for an extension of its term.

4.3.1 CONFIDENTIALITY AGREEMENT

All members are required to declare any conflicts of interest and have sign an agreement regarding confidentiality and conflicts of interest.

4.3.2 WORKSTREAMS

Finally, it was agreed that IRIC would divide into two work streams to deal with its mandate. These are:

Members of IRIC each selected a work stream. All proposals from a work stream will be shared with the IRIC plenary meeting before finalisation.

4.3.3 COMMUNICATION

It was also agreed that regular communiqués would be provided to the St John's community with regard to the workings of IRIC. Links to these documents can be found on this page. If you have any questions regarding IRIC, please email [email protected]