Apart, not apartheid

Par­ents say it’s no big deal, but other par­ties are fum­ing at a sec­ond in­ci­dent of racial sep­a­ra­tion at the school

CityPress - - News - ATHANDIWE SABA and XOLANI MBANJWA athandiwe.saba@city­press.co.za and xolani.mbanjwa@city­press.co.za

Two school­buses off­load pre­cious lit­tle cargo, fresh from a school trip early in June. A grainy video cap­tures the scene. The chil­dren get off in neat racial groups. Whites from one bus. Blacks from the other. The racially frag­ile coun­try ex­ploded as the im­ages emerged this week.

The Curro Foun­da­tion school in Rood­e­plaat near Pre­to­ria now faces share­holder pres­sure from the gov­ern­ment’s pow­er­ful pen­sion fund, which is a ma­jor share­holder, and a sec­ond probe in just four months by the Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion.

In Fe­bru­ary, Curro was at the cen­tre of a school race scan­dal when black par­ents com­plained about racial seg­re­ga­tion by class. The school’s ex­pla­na­tion then and now is the same: the learn­ers were sep­a­rated for lan­guage not race.

Gaut­eng ed­u­ca­tion MEC Panyaza Le­sufi is fum­ing – he has the power to sus­pend Curro’s li­cence. “The day we [only] al­low Tsh­wanas to play with Tsh­wanas and Xhosas to play with Xhosas ... the day we tol­er­ate that we should sep­a­rate learn­ers on the ba­sis of their own lan­guage ... that will be a sad day for this coun­try,” he said.

But nine par­ents who spoke to City Press say the in­ci­dent’s been blown out of pro­por­tion and that im­prove­ments have been made. Black par­ents are con­cerned that al­most the en­tire teach­ing fac­ulty is white.

The Public In­vest­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (PIC), which has poured hun­dreds of mil­lions of rands into Curro, said it “con­demns the prac­tice of racial seg­re­ga­tion in any form and shape as it goes against the spirit and the let­ter of the Con­sti­tu­tion.

“The PIC is con­cerned be­cause these al­le­ga­tions fol­low hot on the heels of a re­port by the Gaut­eng depart­ment of ed­u­ca­tion, which con­cluded that Curro Rood­e­plaat was prac­tis­ing racism.”

SA Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion spokesper­son Isaac Man­gena said it had opened a new in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the latest in­ci­dent. “We can­not have one group of chil­dren be­ing seg­re­gated from another in a demo­cratic coun­try,” he said.

The com­mis­sion is also in­ves­ti­gat­ing Curro Kathu in North­ern Cape where racism claims sur­faced ear­lier this year with al­le­ga­tions that teach­ers and staff were ad­dress­ing English-speak­ing par­ents in Afrikaans.

City Press spoke to nine par­ents on a visit to Curro Rood­e­plaat a day af­ter Le­sufi de­scribed the ac­tions of the school as “dis­gust­ing”. Par­ents were in­ter­viewed across racial groups and the over­all opin­ion was that the in­ci­dent had been blown out of pro­por­tion.

When City Press ar­rived on Fri­day af­ter­noon, chil­dren of all races were play­ing on swings and the jun­gle gym out­side Curro Rood­e­plaat Pri­mary School.

They laughed and squealed as they chased each other around the swings or brushed each other’s hair as they waited for their par­ents.

Doreen, a white grand­mother, said her two grand­chil­dren at the school were well in­te­grated.

“I have heard a lot about this and I don’t un­der­stand how par­ents can be so child­ish. As they fight, the chil­dren will con­tinue play­ing to­gether. My grand­chil­dren have all sorts of friends, at home they are taught to be good peo­ple and colour does not mat­ter,” she said as she picked up her two grand­sons.

One of her grand­sons is four years old and the other is in an English Grade One class, which she said was cho­sen for him by his par­ents even though they speak Afrikaans at home.

Another white par­ent, who did not want to be named, said she was ex­tremely up­set be­cause the chil­dren risked be­ing marginalised.

“My daugh­ter can’t even wear her school uni­form at the shops be­cause peo­ple are giv­ing her dirty looks. Peo­ple think her school is racist and wear­ing the uni­form is some kind of sign.”

Her daugh­ter has been in the school for nine years, and she has never con­sid­ered mov­ing her. “I wish the par­ents who are spread­ing this and those who be­lieve it, could come to the school and see for them­selves. These chil­dren play sport to­gether, go on camps to­gether, this is not a racist school.”

Reshoketswe Nak­eni, a mother of a Grade 2 pupil, said: “There was no racism, not this time and not in this video. Things have changed for the bet­ter here. I’m in­volved in this school and the man­age­ment and teach­ers are re­ally try­ing hard to do bet­ter and change the way they did things, but to sus­pect racism is wrong be­cause I have not seen it since the first in­ci­dent, which was bla­tantly racist in my view.”

Nak­eni said she chose the school be­cause it had good poli­cies and she was not con­tem­plat­ing tak­ing her child to another school.

Another black par­ent, who asked not to be named, agreed say­ing although the latest in­ci­dent was not racist, the school had not learnt from its past mis­takes.

“Our chil­dren go to that school and black peo­ple are gar­den­ers, clean­ers and se­cu­rity guards. With no black teach­ers, our chil­dren think they are in­fe­rior and we can’t have that. Although Curro has promised to hire black teach­ers, its ex­pla­na­tion that black teach­ers do not meet the re­quire­ments is false be­cause there are many black teach­ers who have ap­plied, but get turned away,” said a fa­ther of two pupils at the school who has ap­plied to another school for his chil­dren next year.

He said he was leav­ing Curro Rood­e­plaat due to the bad pub­lic­ity around the school and was con­cerned this could af­fect his chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion.

“The first in­ci­dent was racist, but there was no racism on this trip. My child went there and we saw many pic­tures of black and white chil­dren play­ing and in­ter­act­ing to­gether,” said the fa­ther.

A black mother of a Grade 3 child said another racial in­ci­dent was the last thing she had ex­pected, but agreed that the video painted a wrong pic­ture.

Curro Rood­e­plaat and its hold­ing com­pany, Curro Hold­ings, said they would not make any fur­ther com­ments apart from the state­ment is­sued ear­lier this week deny­ing al­le­ga­tions of racism.

PHOTO: MUNTU VI­LAKAZI

CHILD’S PLAY Chil­dren of var­i­ous races play at Curro pri­vate school in Rood­e­plaat, Pre­to­ria. The school has been at the cen­tre of another racial con­tro­versy

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