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School to review houses' “whitewashed” namesakes

School to review houses' “whitewashed” namesakes

Wednesday 01 July 2020

School to review houses' “whitewashed” namesakes


De La Salle has bowed to pressure to review the people commemorated in its house system, including one named after the man who instigated Southern Africa’s first apartheid-style laws.

It comes 11 years after a former student, who hails from Zimbabwe, filed a formal complaint about the use of colonialist businessman-turned-politician Cecil Rhodes’ name in this way given his knowledge of the historical figure’s white supremacist sympathies and dedication to imperialism.

This student’s aunt, Lesley Katsande, a campaigner for racial justice as part of the Black Lives Matter Jersey movement, has brought the issue to light once again, accusing the College of “whitewashing” and “lying” about Rhodes’s legacy. 

Head of De La Salle, Jason Turner says that the school is now opening a review into all the names of its houses which will consult its current and past students about whether the names should be changed given the controversial aspects of some of the figures’ involvement in colonialism, and their views on race.

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Pictured: Jersey's Black Lives Matter movement has grown since its first protest at the beginning of this month (George Marriott/Melissa Rodrigues).

Each of the school’s historic houses is named after a famous explorer, including the following: 

  • Cecil Rhodes - British mining tycoon and prime minister of the former Cape Colony in South Africa;
  • Captain Robert Falcon Scott – (aka Scott of the Antarctic) who led two expeditions to the Antarctic;
  • Henry Morton Stanley – a Victorian adventurer and journalist famed for his exploration of central Africa;
  • Robert Edwin Peary – a prominent Polar explorer. 

The houses organise the secondary school students into these four groups which form the basis of the school’s pastoral care system and school competitions. All pupils are placed in the house that their father, uncle, grandfather or brother were sorted into.

Amongst them, the legacy of Rhodes and Stanley have each been publicly criticised for their roles in the colonialist mission and contribution to racial stereotypes. 

For Lesley, whose family comes from Zimbabwe where Rhodes is buried and his links to white supremacy and colonialism are well-known, she thinks that the college should be “ashamed” for holding him in such high regard.

“They know the true history of these people, but they choose which history to put on their website, to teach their students. So really, they are lying about history, they expect their students to believe in the education system when they are already lying on their website.”

Her views appear to be shared by Children’s Minister Senator Sam Mézec who took to Twitter to advocate for the house’s name to be changed.

Despite hitting the headlines very recently due to racial equality campaigners from the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement calling for a statue of Rhodes outside an Oxford University college to come down, he has long been held as a controversial figure. 

Even whilst he was alive, Rhodes’s backing of the infamous Jameson Raid which involved a small British force trying to overthrow an Afrikaner president of another Southern African region – an offensive that in part led to the Second Boer War – earned him a chequered reputation. 

His critics claim that legislative changes he made whilst prime minister of the Cape Colony paved the way for the country’s apartheid system, which was built on racial segregation and discrimination. 

However, the section about the houses on the private school’s website does not delve into these controversial aspects of Rhodes’s life, rather emphasising that he “left a will that created the most successful educational endowments of all time.” 

Indeed, the Rhodes scholarship which still runs to this day, provides funding for students around the world to attend Oxford University. 

Lesley told Express that De La Salle’s website shows Rhodes to be “an education pioneer” but it omits the fact he was a “pioneer of apartheid” and any details of “the other atrocities that happened in Zimbabwe and in Zambia.” 

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Pictured: Lesley says that De La Salle's version of Rhodes's history is "whitewashing".

She says that this is made even worse by the fact that it contravenes the Christian values of the college.

“That Christian value is lost by whitewashing, lying and not listening to everyone else when we are trying to point out something. So, how can we move on from this? They have to start by admitting and acknowledging the victim... For 11 years, my nephew had to endure seeing CJR being dubbed a hero when we all know that he is [only] a hero from other people’s lives – especially black people.”

When asked what action she would like to see taken, Lesley disputed that it was up to her to figure out what should be done.

“I didn’t put that name there. The people who put that name on there are the ones who should sit down and decide how they can move on from it. Because they see him as a hero, they know he’s not the hero as they portray him to be because they left out some information. They’re the ones that should sit down and discuss, ‘How... can we move on from there?’” 

In recent years, campaigners have also called for the removal of a statue of Stanley – another namesake in the house system – from the Welsh town of Denbigh due to his perpetuation of racist language in his travel writing as well as allegations of his brutality with locals whilst he explored central Africa. 

The campaign to remove Stanley’s statue began in 2010 but have recently begun afresh.

In a statement, De La Salle’s Mr Turner said: “De La Salle College is aware of concerns raised regarding the use of the name 'Rhodes' as one of the historic houses of the College. The colonial past of Cecil Rhodes was not an aspect that lay behind the selection, over 100 years ago, of his name for one of our Houses. Rather he was chosen because of the dedication of almost his entire fortune to the Rhodes Educational Scholarships, which specifically forbade disqualification on grounds of race and have enabled many, irrespective of their ethnicity, to access University education.

"As the abhorrent behaviour of white colonial figures of British history has become clear, we have sought to balance the desire to retain the history of the College, with the need to ensure that we do not in any way condone the British ideology of colonial conquest. As a College, we are reviewing whether the Rhodes House name is appropriate for our College in the 21st Century.”

In reference to the other figures their houses are named after, he stated: “The historic choice of explorers for the House names at De La Salle is a matter that has been discussed by Governors prior to the article broadcast by the BBC. We determined at that point to open a period of consultation with our current students and alumni, with the scope to consider whether the names used in our House system are appropriate for our College in the 21st Century.” 

Lesley said the review should be extended to all Jersey schools.

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Pictured: Lesley has challenged all Jersey's schools to review the people they honour within their house systems.

“Most of the names of explorers, they normally come back with a lot of negative connotations... And I think all the schools in Jersey should revisit some of the namesakes that they are putting in because we do know that most of them they were sponsored to go and conquer on behalf of the British Empire and most of the things [...] were not handed over to them; they took them by force, by gun or by a fist.” 

She also expressed the hope that De La Salle’s review will start by consulting with her nephew who raised the issue when he was a student there, as well as challenging all Jersey’s schools to make their policy and procedures on incidents of racial discrimination public. 

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Posted by neil faudemer on
I believe Jason Turners suggestion to seek the consensus of both present and past pupils of the school is the way forward.The majority should then rule and that would close the matter. I for one would not like to see this changed .I am also disappointed to read that Lesley Katsande has accused the school of whitewashing and lying.
Posted by Michael Blampied on
Sadly yet more attempts to rewrite history. Interesting to see Christian values being thrown into the mix. As a former pupil of the school in question I learned of many biblical characters whose lives (much like that of Rhodes) embraced both the bad and the good. To quote from John 8:7 - “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her”.

No surprise that Senator Mezec would be seen to quickly board this particular bandwagon. That will be the same Senator Mezec who in 2015, together with the party he represents, was “thrilled” at Jeremy Corbyn becoming leader of the Labour Party. That will be the same Jeremy Corbyn whose tenureship of his party was forever besmirched with accusations of anti Semitism, and whose relationships with various terrorist organisations can be freely explored across the internet. Pot, kettle.........
Posted by Francisco Corcoran on
Mr Mezec and colleagues are trying to erase history. Rhodes was a man of his time, a time quiet different to today. If we go down this road there will be no history left ( the Romans were quiet into slavery). What we know today is that we are being bullied by minority left wing groups to shape the world as they want it. Any decisions on statues, names etc being removed should be a Parishioners vote by secret ballot, and only after a Petition has been signed by a significant number of people to trigger such a vote.
Posted by Keith Marsh on
I give up ..... lets change everything, destroy all books, forget all learning ....BUT this would not still be enough for some.
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