On the topic of judging schools and organizations based on DEIJ and providing awards. To be
clear, we agree with developing and sharing good practice around a range of learning-focused
categories, one of which focuses on DEIJ.
We would like to understand the context of awards? How they come into existence? How are
panels organized? We would like to figure out why you think this work should be awarded.
For full transparency, we really struggle with folks trying to make justice & liberation work
competitive or even about recognition. We have observed that some of the systems outside of
us seem to create competition and ‘fights for recognition’ that, frankly, none of us are really
The idea of “winning” seems to run counter to what DEIJ work is about and also implies a finish
line when there is ALWAYS learning / work to be done. It also fails to recognize those who may
not meet the standards of dominant culture/institutions that truly aren’t invested in this work.
These institutions shouldn’t and don’t get to give a stamp of approval to work they truly aren’t
invested in. And if they truly were invested in it, they wouldn’t even think to give trophies out.
DEIJ work is a work of solidarity, community, and deep learning. Competition or
competitiveness are hallmarks of white supremacy, and almost always replicate oppressive
systems we aim to dismantle because they can be individualistic, binary, either you win or lose,
you get it or not. Award-giving like this opens the possibilities for school leaders to tick the box
without doing deep work. We have seen DEIJ becoming commodified, used as a marketing tool,
because of our rush to dole or perceive the need to dole out congratulatory cookies for doing
A few hand-selected lines from Michelle Mijung Kim, author of The Wake Up comes to mind
around ISC's ideas: “If the good we are seeking in this world is advancing social justice and
equity for all oppressed people, then we must measure our goodness by the outcomes desired
and impacts felt by those to whom justice and equity have not yet been granted. And only they
get to decide when something – our efforts, our impact, our apology, our outcomes – is good
Kim added, “Too many still approach social justice work like community service, as if we’re
doing a favor for marginalized identities, as if we’re spending our time and resources to be
selfless and as if we are deserving of grace, because “at least we are trying”. This attitude is
problematic as it centers us as martyrs while mischaracterizing the necessary work of
addressing centuries of systemic oppression as charity work.”
Considering our thought processes, what do you think schools who are actually doing this
important work would feel to receive this award? What does it say about a school who is
honored to receive such an award?
In addition to the white centering, competition, commodification; and who gets the authority
to confer approval of what constitutes equity and justice, and other reasons – all these make us
say no, not for us.
To be clear, we agree with “developing and sharing good practice around a range of learning-
focused categories, one of which focuses on DEIJ.” We believe that the categories should have
principles and practices of DEIJ and anti-racism undergirding all of these categories; and for
schools and institutions to ensure they are continuously and cyclically taking actions,
monitoring progress towards equity and justice. Receiving affirmation and recognition is
valuable but it would be much more meaningful and authentic if it came from within the
community and students. In fact, the only people judging DEIJ work in schools should be the
students from a school. How would anyone else know how the school is doing with serving the
very folks they are meant to serve?
Thank your time and for considering these matters. We hope you will take this email as
intended – with humility and as an opportunity for collaborative growth. We look forward to
The AIELOC Community
AIELOC stands in solidarity with the people of Iran, and expresses its support for the students and educators who are being persecuted for demanding their liberties and basic human rights.
AIELOC condemns the violent oppression by the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) that has imprisoned, tortured, and killed many innocent lives not just in these last forty days, but for over forty-three years.
AIELOC emphasises that this movement is not a movement against Islam, or the hijab, and should not be co-opted for any other purpose than to support the people of Iran. Understanding that this movement, led in great part by the youth of Iran, is one that is demanding the liberty to choose for oneself. This is about bodily autonomy and the right to live in freedom.
AIELOC calls for unity in our movements for liberation of all people.
‘We are not free until everyone is free.’ Martin Luther King Jr.
“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” Audre Lorde
Thank you to AIELOC Members: Yasmine, Omar, Sara, Parisa, Larisa, Roya
We ask AIELOC members to take a photo of themselves holding a piece of paper that says “I stand with the people of Iran in their fight for freedom” and share this on their social media with the hashtag #AIELOCforIRAN
Reflections from the International School Anti-Discrimination Task Force, 14-15 October 2022
By: AIELOC Fellows – Justin Garcia (they/them/theirs), Kristina Pennell-Götze (she/her/hers), Iyabo Tinubu (she/her/hers), and Cultural Wealth and Lifelong Learning Practitioners – Rama Ndiaye (she/her/hers), Nayoung Weaver (they/she)
What does joy look like in the international school ecosystem?
On 14-15 October 2022, positional and thought leaders gathered at the International School of Geneva (Ecolint) to attend the inaugural International School Anti-Discrimination Task Force (ISADTF). 91 educators coming from 5 continents participated in this historical moment.
During these two days of reflection, connection, and co-construction of knowledge and shared understanding, members of the global majority and those of dominant groups held space for one another. Throughout the event, members of the Association of International Educators and Leaders of Color (AIELOC) engaged in line with Our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Policy:
“We acknowledge that the diverse backgrounds and voices of our community represented in the collective make us stronger and better equipped to make a positive impact globally… Our goal is to ensure that our association and our global partners demonstrate a commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and anti-racism and that this is reflected in policies, programs, practices, recruitment, curriculum, and the life of the institutions in general.”
As we worked, we found solace in gathering as a community.
We heard from the founders of the Task Force – the Educational Collaborative for International Schools (ECIS), the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO), the International School of Geneva (Ecolint), AIELOC – and we were graced with a presentation from Xoài David and Clara Reynolds, founders of the Organisation to Decolonise International Schools (ODIS). During an impromptu moment, we also had the opportunity to hear the heart-wrenching experiences of an Ecolint alumnus, Eloise Hughes, and an Ecolint student, Violetta. Equipped with this additional knowledge, educators entered committees motivated to collaborate and generate commitments. The committees were:
- Governance, facilitated by Kathleen Naglee (she/her)
- Leadership, facilitated by Fandy Diney (she/her)
- Accreditation, facilitated by Nunana Nyomi (he/him)
- Humanising Pedagogy through Teaching and Learning, originally Curriculum, facilitated
by Angeline Aow (she/her)
- Recruitment and Retention, facilitated by Justin Garcia (they/them)
- Agency, originally Student Agency, facilitated by Katrina Sunnei Samasa (she/her)
From AIELOC;s perspective, one of the goals of the conference was to model, in real time, our commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice, also known as DEIJ. It was extremely important to us that members of the global majority – and other historically-marginalized folks – bring their authentic selves to discuss radical possibilities with those possessing systems knowledge in order to co-create strategies for a more equitable ecosystem. Another goal was to ensure collective accountability for our tasks. In order to reach that goal, each committee
pledged to have at least three commitments by the conclusion of the Task Force. Our dedicated facilitators understood too well that in spite of the extraordinary collaboration that took place, the commitments shared should continue to be a work in progress.
As AIELOC members, we are still in disbelief that we all came together on the sunny weekend of October 14th and are still buzzing from it. Although many of the bodies we hugged were those of the faces we only saw via Zoom until that weekend, it all felt familiar and easy. We all
already knew each other. As advocates that continue to be systematically oppressed at our jobs, being seen and embraced for exactly who we are was refreshing and a (radical) dream come true. Thanks to our cultural wealth, as marginalized folks, we have the critical lens to
observe and talk about the oppression all around us, even though existing structures continue to refuse to acknowledge its existence. Unpacking these systems, to ideastorm solution steps, was invigorating. As AIELOC members, we were there for the movement, the joy, the radical imagination, and of course, being together in solidarity.
Nevertheless, history continues to repeat itself: Even during a Task Force aimed at creating anti-discrimination policies in international schools, we still witnessed – internalized and externalized – oppressive behaviors. We heard from educators who were still surprised that
racism and all the other -isms still exist. As AIELOC members, we were reminded that many institutions are still at the stage of reckoning with the idea that all human beings in their community, no matter their identity, should matter. Many with power and privilege do not have to
come to terms with their experiences of oppression in their lives and thus continue to exploit, appropriate, and commodify our knowledge while continuing to erase our existence in the ecosystem at large.
Even the existence of the taskforce shed light on the privilege we hold within the community. Many attendants could not attend because of distance, travel costs, or illness from the ongoing pandemic. Options for virtual participation were limited. Voices of international school support and maintenance staff were missing. This reinforces our own commitments to learning and action for future taskforce endeavors.
The strategies that emerge from genuinely diverse, equitable, inclusive, and anti-racist sessions are new and unparalleled in international schools. Some of us understand that expertise does not mean authority and, as Keynote Speaker Cynthia Roberson stated, passion alone does not make us experts. Many people “in DEIJ” have not made a personal connection to its history and therefore have a lack of understanding of its true meaning. Our ancestors have invited us into this work – we are in a multigenerational effort and need to stay humble. However, divesting in capitalism is challenging when we are taught that succeeding in that realm is our life’s purpose. In shifting systems, we all have a role to play. We must all fight back against these systems and the people who uphold White Supremacy Culture.
As James Baldwin stated, “The place in which I'll fit will not exist until I make it.” We, members of the global majority, historically-marginalized folks, and AIELOC, had a taste of a genuine space of belonging during the Task Force. Channeling that creative space for our students is our primary job as educators. We have a lot of work to do – but we will do it our way and with a
focus on liberation. But let us start by centering ourselves and our lived experiences, front, back, and all the way. Let us continue the journey with humility while inspiring each other.
To answer the question from the beginning of the reflection: the joy in the international school ecosystem should look and feel like an AIELOC meeting. A space where people gather to be with each other, actively listen to one another, have each other’s backs, and fully realize the importance of authentic solidarity. As AIELOC founder, Kevin Simpson, always says: “it’s about WE not me”.
To non-members of AIELOC: Whatever position you hold, include colleagues that are AIELOC members who breathe and live the work every day simply by showing up to their institutions. Move beyond “allyship” and engage as an advocate. Advocate for a system of time and financial support for them so they can sit next to you at any table you access. Their presence is
revolutionary – uplift them, and in turn, you will play a part in breaking the cycle of oppression that plagues our ecosystem.
To our AIELOC family: coming back to reality after being together is tough. We know. Until our next family reunion, take care of yourself, stay in community, and reach out. Keep being you.
We love you.
Recruitment season is something many international educators both look forward to and dread. It’s a time to explore different opportunities that could literally change your life. However, it’s also a time of extreme stress and frustration. The field is immensely competitive with a single position at a popular school sometimes getting over 100 applicants. The pandemic has caused even more uncertainty as teachers come and go depending on lockdowns and city wide quarantine.
Recruitment agencies like Search Associates, TIE Online, ISS, and Schrole are designed to help teachers navigate the process of recruitment. They’re a one-stop shop for teachers to set up a profile, submit confidential references, and contact schools upon reviewing their profile. However, these organizations exist to prioritize the needs of the schools that utilize them. They uphold the status quo that allows schools to gaslight their teachers. They allow school leaders to act as gatekeepers to both prevent opportunities for teachers they dislike while also facilitating connections for those they find agreeable.
What if school leaders deploy problematic hiring practices? What if teachers are subjected to abuse by vindictive school leaders that costs them their jobs? Their reputation? There are no protocols in place on these platforms to protect teachers subjected to harm by their administrators. I experienced this first hand with one particular recruitment agency that many teachers take advantage of. This agency has done zero work on any sort of equitable hiring practices or DEIJ policies. This experience was so devastating that it caused me extreme distress and inevitably cost me a job.
I was in the final stages of the interviewing process at a major international school. Their policy required me to reach out to my last few principals for a reference. One previous principal I worked with for several years prior wrongfully claimed I “falsified” old references on the platform. I had never actually used this platform up until this point. This former principal deliberately went into my account and reported it without reaching out for any type of context, even though we have an open line of communication. This organization contacted me to clarify and the issue with these old references was a title mismatch – a minor clerical error that I owned up to and sought to amend especially since I had several up-to-date references from my current institution.
However, I received no response from the recruitment organization. I was essentially ghosted, dealing with a punishment that was an extreme overreaction for a mistake. After several fruitless email and even phone call attempts, it was clear they were avoiding me. I was just another teacher to them in a sea of teachers whose emotional well being and job security did not matter compared to their zero tolerance policy.
It wasn’t until I contacted a lawyer and threatened legal action against the recruitment agency that they finally contacted me via email. By this point, it had been over 10 days since this debacle started. In the end, the agency agreed to reinstate my account based on my more current references, but continued to reprimand me for being “dishonest”. While I was relieved to come to a resolution with this issue, the damage had already been done. I lost an exciting job opportunity and went through an emotional rollercoaster.
This issue inevitably cost me this job, and as per the recruitment agency’s policy they are allowed to notify any other bodies who may use the user’s data. I was terrified. I felt like my international school teaching career was over.
What the recruitment agency and this principal did was undermine my teaching experience. They dismissed the fact I have been a community leader for several years, ignoring my colleagues who vouched for me and taking the word of vindictive principal over my own. This particular principal has had a history of fraternizing with and verbally assaulting teachers. Yet, how could recruitment organizations ever know about this? Principals only require references from other principals, reinforcing problematic affinity biases. When I’ve reached out to recruitment organizations about this, the response has always been “go through your school’s proper channels”, but the channels exist to allow abusive leaders to thrive.
I was left on my own without any due process, so I cast out my net. I reached out to anyone and everyone within my professional network. Teachers on the ground all shared similar experiences they have had with other recruitment organizations; experiences of racism, homophobia, gaslighting, and abuse. We lamented in our shared experiences, and it made me even more frustrated to know these stories were a lot more common than I thought. Ultimately, my contacts led me to meet with other leaders at different recruitment organizations. The response from school and education leaders was the same, “ What did you do to this principal to deserve this?”. The ownership was placed back on me for having a poor relationship with my former principal. After I explained the racist and homophobic practices of this principal, I was given the response, “Well, back then we really didn’t know any better”. I knew right then I would not find my support here.
The overarching problem here isn’t with a single recruitment organization. Yes, these organizations have a tremendous amount of work to do to create truly equitable recruitment practices. The underlying issue is institutional power. These organizations exist not for teachers, but for schools, “old boys club” leadership circles, and full pockets. “Equity statements” and committees aside, when a real problem occurs with a school and a teacher, these organizations defend institutions and school leaders first. This was demonstrated not just in my own personal story, but the silent stories of many others. In fact, I believe that the way recruitment organizations are designed is to prevent truth-telling and accountability. My own experience ultimately led me to connect with the director of recruitment for another organization who wanted to hear my story. I was asked several times through the course of a single conversation what I did to make my previous administrator act in this way. After bringing up my experiences with racism, homophobia, and abuse, I was told by this director, “Back then, administrators didn’t know any better.” as if racism didn’t exist before the protests of 2020.
Consider this common scenario: A teacher has a poor experience with a recruitment organization, a school, or a school leader. The teacher experienced racism, homophobia, or microaggressions. Who do these teachers go to? They certainly do not speak with school leaders, who are often the aggressors. The head of school, likely a white male, is supportive of their white leadership team and doesn’t understand the experiences of marginalized communities. HR exists to support teachers with visas and finances, not interpersonal relationships. Even if systems do exist for teachers to report harassment and violence, complaining places our letters of recommendation at risk. Teachers are often gaslit into thinking the problem is with us; we’re told that we’re “too sensitive” or “we need to respect the journey our colleagues are on” rather than challenge racist individuals or institutions. The only solution for teachers is to keep quiet, put their head down, and make it through the year, hopefully with an adequate letter of recommendation in hand. Teachers will never know of course because electronic references are confidential, so teachers are left wondering what school leaders really said about them.
Some recruitment organizations are doing work to create more equitable practices, but I think there needs to be significantly more work done to actually hold schools accountable. Forming committees and interrogating internal policies is a piece of equity work, but justice and liberation will not happen unless more radical action is taken.
Require administrators to diversify their references
To my understanding, administrators are only required to submit references to recruitment organizations from other administrators. This creates an affinity bias and reinforces problematic power dynamics between school leaders. I would argue that very little can actually be understood by a school leader by requiring only other leaders in a similar position to provide a reference. I think recruitment organizations should require school leaders to call upon several staff members, parents, and students to submit confidential references describing their overall performance at the school. References should be random, and questions should also be available in more than one language depending on the school context. It would require some logistical gymnastics for recruitment organizations to make this work, but it’s possible especially given how there are much fewer school leaders than there are principals who go recruiting every year.
It’s also possible to enact this change without waiting for the bureaucratic recruitment organizations to do something about it. Many leaders find jobs organically through networking, so schools could make these types of references required in their hiring practice when seeking out new administrators. If we want a clear picture on how principals and other school leaders actually advocate for students, teachers and community members, they need to start reaching out to the source.
Require schools to submit public climate surveys to recruitment organizations
School websites might have a DEIJ statement or even a non discrimination policy. Now, on places like Search Associates, there is a spot in the school profile that states whether or not a school has an equity statement. Despite this, it’s extremely difficult to understand what it’s actually like to work at a new school unless you happen to know someone who either works there or has worked there. While schools tout their equity statement or spend thousands of dollars on PD, Queer and BIPOC educators often have a very different experience when they arrive. Take the school I worked at in Kuwait. It’s regarded as one of the most well established schools in the Gulf Arab region. However, in practice, they are racist, homophobic, and abusive. My experience is not unique; it has been echoed by several other international school teachers.
Teachers need full transparency. We’re shifting our lives and moving to a completely new country for a job opportunity that we don’t know much about aside from what’s on their website and in a virtual interview. Recruitment organizations should make it a requirement that schools submit climate surveys to their school profile that provide data from staff, teachers, students, and parents outlining their overall experience at the school. Surveys should be given in multiple languages and be updated every 2-3 years. These surveys should be public, so potential applicants can make a more informed decision on whether or not the school is right for them. This would also hold administrators more accountable, as their performance will essentially be reviewed by all stakeholders.
Make schools’ commitment to justice and equity a requirement
At the moment, the little section in school profiles about DEIJ statements and LGBT laws are entirely up to the school to fill out. In my experience, they’re sometimes inaccurate. I remember several occasions of bringing up a school’s DEIJ policy in an interview because I saw it on Search Associates, and the school had no idea what I was talking about. Are schools trained on what this means? Was it just a feature that was added without any notice?
A school’s dedication to anti-racism and liberation should not be optional. Finally, I think recruitment organizations should make having these aspects I noted, including a DEIJ statement, a requirement to access their services. Schools that do not comply would simply be turned away. Would that affect the company’s bottom line? Probably. However, those who are serious about this work understand that a sacrifice of privilege is sometimes necessary to do the right thing.
Queer and BIPOC voices should not have to fight this hard simply to exist. We need radical change, not committees or performative DEIJ statements or webinars. I implore recruitment organizations like Search Associates, ISS, and especially Schrole, to do more to hold harmful institutions accountable.
Have you ever noticed the small AIELOC banner on the school website?
AIELOC started from the story of a woman who was a person of colour. She shared an
anecdote saying she was discouraged from applying for a leadership position at an international
school as her race and country of origin did not match the “expectations”.
The Association of International Educators and Leaders Of Colour (AIELOC) is an
organization that deals with racism, identity, equity, discrimination, justice, diversity and much
more. It was founded by Kevin Simpson in 2017. Would you like to be a part of such an
organization? It is noteworthy that ISD is a school member of this association.
I, as an intern of this organization, believe that the meetings, core values, and success
have been exceedingly insightful and inspirational; as it made me take a deeper interest in the
inequity in my school community. It is because of such issues that I, as a teenager, constantly feel
like I don’t belong and have a fear of being judged. This is clearly visible through students
avoiding students and staff of a certain race, ethnicity, background etc. Some may also notice it
by looking at how some students are more privileged than others and are perceived to receive
As an intern who has been a part of the association for the last 6 months I can assure you
of the fact that, It has impacted my overall thought and learning process in a significantly
positive manner. Every ISD student deserves the opportunity to speak up and express themselves
freely. AIELOC is the perfect place to do so as we meet with various leaders from around the
world and come together to share our experiences.
AIELOC at ISD
Considering ISD is one of the first members of AIELOC and thus should exemplify and
implement its core values through its regular practice. The organization deals with some notable
issues such as racism, discirmnation, injustice, gender biases,stereotypes. All of the
aforementioned have been recognized by ISD over the years and students have been actively
spreading the word about these. However, their efforts have fallen short due to other affairs.
Addressing these issues aids the school to provide a significantly better learning environment
resulting in a better sense of belonging for the students. It is hopeful to see that ISD is officially a
member of AIELOC as a small banner of the organization is visible on our official website.
However, when the official ISD website is accessed a small banner of the organization is visible;
this is not of much use as it does not give any background of the organization. Hence, a way to
show affiliation with AIELOC is to dedicate a page on the school blog or jag journal, expanding
on what the association does, and what it can do to help to improve ISD in the long run.
What hasAIELOC accomplished so far?
In an interview , Mr. Simpson tells us that the creation of AIELOC was his biggest
success so far as it grew from a mere Facebook page to a structured organization with various
connections to other schools and communities.
From 2017 to 2022 AIELOC has come a long way and the journey will continue on.
AIELOC plans to continue its expansion for a sustainable future. In the upcoming 5 years, it
envisions to, have a bigger impact on students and educators of color, start numerous programs,
develop enhanced PD sessions, advance in research and advocacy, and feature in the chapter of
a book Mr. Simpson has been working on.
Furthermore, AIELOC is making a huge difference as it organizes well-attended
conferences each year. It has created and/or supports groups of the global majority within
international education (Africa, Asia-Pacific, Middle-East) ; It is a founding member of the
anti-discrimination task-force for international schools; it is supporting schools at achieving
more diverse recruitment and, last but not least, it is supporting the exchange of more diverse
teaching resources in international education.
Taking into account all the success that AIELOC has achieved in just 5 years starting
with only one story; we can most certainly imagine the extent to which it can go if hundreds of
stories were shared, all the while challenging us to create a change.
Intern at AIELOC
IBDP-1 (Grade: 11)
Working at an international school while Black and a local hire
When I arrived at that school, it seemed like a great place to be: It seemed like an open-minded
community, and a break from the racism we usually experience in Pretoria.
I noticed that as long as you, a Black person, aren't seen as a threat to white local hires, your
stay at the school will be a good one. While my stay was “good”, I started experiencing
aggressions that weren’t so micro. White locals would deliberately ignore me and pretend like I
didn’t exist. That came in the form of not being greeted back in the hallways, them walking into a
room I was in and proceeding to greet their fellow white person and pretend like I wasn’t in the
room, to speaking in their language to keep me off conversations, but quickly switching to
English as soon as an international hire joins the group.
As each year passed, the aggressions grew bolder. I was told that I’m at that school only
because of the color of my skin, that I was an affirmative action hire and would never lose my
job. Comments about black people not being able to manage anything, us needing white people
to save us.
More black locals joined the school, but would exit within a year. We were all exhausted from
the treatment we were receiving. It always felt like I had to leave myself at the gate of the school
when entering and assume someone that was palatable by the institution. While everyone
would talk about their personal lives and where they are from, I didn’t feel like I could, as I
always felt as insignificant as how the support staff was regarded. I’d always get curious looks
whenever I would be seen talking to the support staff, because those people were seen to be
there only to serve and not exist to do anything else.
I had isolated myself from the community so much that I knew there was no way I would ever
function well at that school. My life at that school was very lonely, most of the Black local staff
didn’t interact much with each other, as we all dreaded finding out what the others were
experiencing. We all knew what was happening, but we didn’t want the other to confirm the
treatment we knew they were receiving.
Things got worse after the killing of George Floyd, we all felt that the proverbial yoke on our
necks was getting heavier. The discrimination was more overt and administration continued to
turn a blind eye. The school only responded to allegations laid by former students and even
those efforts were more damaging than anything. Things got worse, some white South African
teachers continued to weaponize their tears instead of taking accountability for their actions.
We’d even compare the school to a local private school (teaching jobs there are mainly
reserved for white people. Black people are only there to serve as support staff or teach native
The best decision I have ever made for myself was to leave that institution. Even in my
departure, the administration made sure to conceal the reason for my resignation. They decided
that me leaving to take care of my family sounded better than me leaving because I had decided
that I had had enough of the discrimination I had endured for years.
If a white teacher fails to see me, a Black adult as human, how are they able to teach students
who look like me and some even sound like me? Continuing to teach at that institution made me
feel like I was betraying myself, as I had told myself that my own children would not be in a
school like that. So how could I continue to be in a place that does not see my value as human
being, and watch young Black children have no choice but to spend the majority of their days
with people who think their people don’t deserve to share the same space as them?
My dream as a Black teacher is for us to not be reduced to fighting for a place at a table that
was not built for us, but that international schools would dismantle their current table by
revisiting their hiring practices, and start building a table that is big enough and designed for
I worked for a very brief time because I always felt left out and isolated.
Much of the communication was done in Afrikaans despite me not understanding the language,
unless our supervisor was around because she didn’t understand it either and she was an
I struggled to find help from my peers, who sometimes ignored me and laughed at me and then
spoke in Afrikaans.
Conversations or topics on colonization and apartheid were often spoken about and my views
were commented on as, “ it was bad, but we need to move on and get along “. Or how it doesn’t
help now that what “your” people are now doing to us.
I was often told that there are no jobs for white people in South Africa and now they are forced
to move out of South Africa because of the reverse apartheid. The insensitive views of my one
peer on how apartheid was better than this democracy was offensive and cruel.
Conversations on how they were close to their family’s house help and found them to be like
their own sisters and how some of their daughters are still their helpers, I found it appalling and
each time I addressed that such should be humiliating because it shows a generational wrong,
as they are progressing in their lives but their very own help is still stuck in the vicious circle of
poverty. They would then reply in Afrikaans and laugh amongst each other.
The challenge was the superiority of the Afrikaans academic staff, and the school accepting it
as a norm. As it perpetuates stereotypes and if not addressed and forced to change would
More white educators were employed as compared to people of colour, we were a total of 5
and the salary was very different even though doing the same job.
My white colleagues used to take leave because their cats were not well but a Black South
African colleague, whose child was unwell was reprimanded for always taking leave.
Sometimes there was terrible weather or the taxis were on strike, the Black colleague who used
public transport would be labeled as always having challenges. But administration and our
white peers failed to be empathetic about the challenges of the trips from the suburbs to the
outer lying townships, especially for a black professionals. The conversations on campus were
that we (Black and white South African) were equal, but the treatment and actions were the total
opposite of what was being preached.
I was excluded in some of the teacher curriculum planning meetings but my white peer who was
at the same level and doing the same job as me was included in the meetings.
Sometimes, my peers failed to acknowledge my presence in the room but acknowledge each
The local white peers strived to isolate, keep information from me but again the international
management lacked the interest, cultural/ historical sensitivity to be able to observe the situation
and engage us about it and lacked empathy for being black in a “white only bus”.
I was looking forward to learning and building relationships at the school. I lasted for a very
short time at the school, and was so happy to be out of that environment but had to be on
anxiety pills due to the level of psychosocial challenges that I encountered at the school.
Empathy is hearing what the other person is saying and allowing them to own their own story.
No one can ever walk in another's shoes because the minute they do, the shoes would take the
shape of their feet and would no longer be the other persons. These experiences were not
necessary to add to my already cruel South African experiences, but it proved to me that
irrespective of our South African song of reconciliation that school is many mountains away and
across the sea from arriving at the point of unity.