Good first day over­all but…

● Racism spoils day as black kids are sep­a­rated from whites at NW school ● Teacher drowns on way to work in KZN

Sowetan - - Front Page - By Boi­tumelo Tshehle and Naledi Shange

The mother of one of the four black grade R pupils who were sep­a­rated from their white class­mates at Sch­weiz­erReneke Laer­skool in North West is en­raged by the in­ci­dent. The par­ent of the five-yearold pupil said her heart sank af­ter view­ing a What­sApp pic­ture sent by her son’s class teacher on the par­ents’ chat group.

She said her son was ex­cited to go to the new school and that also made her happy. But just two hours af­ter drop­ping him off, it all changed.

The im­age showed 18 white pupils oc­cu­py­ing a sin­gle large desk in the mid­dle of the class­room, while the four black chil­dren in the class oc­cu­pied one desk at the far end of the class­room.

The pic­ture caused pub­lic out­cry when it went vi­ral on so­cial me­dia yes­ter­day. The pupils’ seat­ing ar­range­ment was ap­par­ently later changed be­cause of the so­cial me­dia back­lash.

“I am p **** d off,” said the mother, who said she was not sure what fur­ther steps to take. “All I saw were mes­sages from white par­ents say­ing dankie, dankie [thank you, thank you] on the What­sApp chat group, but no one was say­ing any­thing about the sep­a­ra­tion of the learn­ers.” Ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion spokesper­son Eli­jah Mh­langa also ex­pressed his shock. He said af­ter look­ing at the pic­ture they con­tacted the pro­vin­cial of­fice to get more in­for­ma­tion.

“We have asked the dis­trict to as­sist us. We hope what we saw in the pic­ture is not what re­ally took place,” he said. The mother said the par­ents’ What­sApp group was cre­ated last year af­ter their chil­dren were ac­cepted at the school. She said she did not think twice about tak­ing her son to the school be­cause his elder brother also went to the same school. She said she had not ex­pe­ri­enced any racism at the school un­til yes­ter­day. Im­me­di­ately af­ter see­ing the pic­ture, the mother said she posted on Face­book and some of her friends ad­vised her to call the prin­ci­pal. “He said he was not aware of the pic­ture and that he will go and check what I was talk­ing about.” She said what made her an­grier was that some of the white par­ents on the chat group com­plained about the per­son who posted the pic­ture on so­cial me­dia.

“I don’t get it, they kept [quiet] as if noth­ing hap­pened, they did not see any­thing wrong in the seat­ing ar­range­ment,” she said. She said the school prin­ci­pal did not get back to her. She, how­ever, promised to send her son to the same school again to­day. “I am glad that he did not no­tice what was go­ing on, I have not told him but I need this to stop.” Seat­lathebe Le­po­mane – the ANC re­gional chair­per­son at Dr Ruth Se­go­motsi Mom­pati, un­der which Sch­weiz­erReneke falls – said af­ter see­ing the pic­ture on so­cial me­dia, he con­tacted the ed­u­ca­tion dis­trict of­fice and re­ported the mat­ter. “We call on the de­part­ment to give at­ten­tion to white schools at Dr RSM mu­nic­i­pal­ity be­cause pri­vate schools here are dom­i­nated by white peo­ple, and that’s where you find racism in the en­tire dis­trict.” Sch­weizer-Reneke is a small farm­ing town 60km from Vry­burg and has had sev­eral racial in­ci­dents in re­cent years. Le­po­mane made an ex­am­ple of Vry­burg Hoërskool, where black pupils were sep­a­rated from white pupils based on lan­guage. White pupils were taught in Afrikaans in all sub­jects while blacks were taught in English. “That is one of the el­e­ments that en­trench racism in the so­ci­ety...” North West de­part­ment of ed­u­ca­tion spokesper­son Freddy Sepeng said they were in­ves­ti­gat­ing the mat­ter and that steps would be taken if it is found that what was in the pic­ture was racial prac­tice.

‘ ‘ I saw mes­sages from white par­ents say­ing dankie, dankie

/ ALAISTER RUS­SELL

Ber­nadette Mek­goe shares a light mo­ment with her grand­son Mokg­waro on his first day of school at Mel­park pri­mary school in Melville, Jo­han­nes­burg. Grade 1 pupils across the coun­try took their first steps into for­mal ed­u­ca­tion when the 2019 school year started yes­ter­day.

/ SUP­PLIED

A pic­ture of a grade R class at Laer­skool Sch­weizer-Reneke in North West, which shows white learn­ers seated sep­a­rately from their black coun­ter­parts in an ap­par­ently racial seg­re­ga­tion in­ci­dent.

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