Belgium's Sint-Paulus Campus College in Waregem has garnered global ire for a photograph it posted on its Instagram and Facebook page. Post the global backlash, the school has removed the picture, deleted its Facebook profile, changed its Instagram profile from public to private and apologized for not correctly estimating the consequences.
In the picture, as many as 19 students dressed up in Asian attire and conical hats posed, with a 'Corona Time' placard in front of them, which features a picture of a girl donning a face mask. A girl can be seen wearing blue gloves and a mask. Two boys dressed up as pandas, while a girl can be seen stretching her eyes, an act ridiculing people from east and south-east Asia.
The racist picture garnered immense criticism on social media:
"oh look! a gathering of white people being racist! as always! nothing new!" wrote one user. Another called out the school authorities for "tolerating racism and making fun of a situation where people died".
"absolute TRASH for an educational institution letting your student go away with this. Especially also being in Belgium, the centre of the EU and celebrating cultural diversity," he wrote.
In a statement on its website, the school said, "They choose an outfit long beforehand, in this case even long before there was any mention of the coronavirus. The students alluded to the recent events in a playful way by adding a sign."
"Neither the school team nor the students involved have ever had the intention of adopting a condescending or offensive attitude," it added. Apologizing for the incident, it said, "The school would like to express its apologies publicly and explicitly through this statement. We did not estimate the consequences of publishing this picture correctly and we regret having offended certain population groups by it."
The picture was reportedly planned for a Chinese theme to celebrate the last 100 days of school, which is a yearly tradition. Since its outbreak in December, last year, the disease has spread to over 100 countries, with 134,804 cases and 4,984 fatalities.