This is a qualitative study that analyses the views and experiences of teachers and students at selected, desegregated schools in Gauteng, South Africa. It focuses on diversity with regard to race, class and gender. These social relationships are intertwined and often not made explicit in everyday life at school. People fight over them, but also work and live together as though they do not matter. There are instances when race, class and gender over-determine one another and where the one asserts its hegemony over the other. We argue that there appears to be the emergence of new patterns of consciousness and behaviour among students, at least in some schools, that could have far-reaching implications for educational change and the construction of national identity and development. We found that greater degrees of tolerance towards other races, classes and genders had developed over time. Studying these schools highlights the tension and fluidity between social cohesion and disintegration in contemporary South Africa. It draws attention to the fact that schools both reflect and shape the broader society and that desegregated schools can make important contributions to nation-building in the post-apartheid period.