‘Take your kids to the town­ship’

White par­ents take their chil­dren out of North West school for the day as res­i­dents protest over racism in class Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion to launch own probe on al­le­ga­tions of racism

Sowetan - - Front Page - By Boi­tumelo Tshehle

Black par­ents who are not happy with how a North West school sep­a­rated black grade R pupils from their white class­mates have been told to take their chil­dren to town­ships schools.

As protests raged at Laer­skool Sch­weizer-Reneke over a vi­ral im­age of black chil­dren seg­re­gated from their white coun­ter­parts at the school, white par­ents, some armed with guns, said blacks who were not happy with the ar­range­ment should re­move their chil­dren from the pre­dom­i­nantly white school.

The school was forced to shut its doors to learn­ing yes­ter­day as a re­sult of protests as ten­sions threat­ened to boil over. “If you are not happy here, take your child to an­other school. No­body is forc­ing you [to bring them here],” a white par­ent said.

An­other par­ent said Sch­weiz­erReneke had one white-dom­i­nated pri­mary school and plenty of black­dom­i­nated schools. “Blacks don’t put their chil­dren first, we put our chil­dren first, and their safety and ed­u­ca­tion come first. This is the only white-dom­i­nated school in this town.

“There are over 10 [black] schools in the town­ship. If they are not happy, let them take their chil­dren there,” said an­other white par­ent.

North West MEC for ed­u­ca­tion Sello Le­hari was told that the rea­son black pupils were sep­a­rated from their white class­mates was be­cause they (blacks) were strug­gling with Afrikaans.

The ex­pla­na­tion was given to Le­hari dur­ing his visit to the school yes­ter­day.

An im­age that has since gone vi­ral on so­cial me­dia showed 18 white pupils oc­cu­py­ing a sin­gle large desk in a class­room while the only four black chil­dren sit at a sep­a­rate desk at the far end of the class. The pic­ture – sent to a par­ent What­sApp group and later dis­trib­uted on so­cial me­dia – went vi­ral and sparked ou­trage al­most im­me­di­ately.

SA Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion chair­per­son Bon­gani Ma­jola said they will be send­ing a team to the school to in­ves­ti­gate the mat­ter. “If the find­ings come out that chil­dren were dis­crim­i­nated against be­cause of their colour, this will be very se­ri­ous,” he said.

How­ever, the SGB said the pic­ture “merely cap­tured a mo­ment and was not a true re­flec­tion of the school’s ethos”.

An­other pic­ture sent later showed the chil­dren sit­ting at the same desk.

On ar­rival at the school yes­ter­day, Le­hari found par­ents of white pupils break­ing the school’s fence and re­mov­ing their chil­dren, while Sch­weiz­erReneke’s black res­i­dents protested in­side the school yard.

Le­hari an­nounced the im­me­di­ate sus­pen­sion of the teacher who taught the class. He said he de­cided to do so be­cause the ex­pla­na­tion given for the sepa­ra­tion of pupils did not sit well with him. “I was told the teacher did that be­cause the black chil­dren did not un­der­stand Afrikaans, so they were teach­ing them sep­a­rately from the white learn­ers. I don’t agree with that, and that’s why I sus­pended her,” he said.

Le­hari said the prov­ince needed wiser teach­ers who treated every pupil – ir­re­spec­tive of their race – like their own chil­dren.

The MEC also ex­pressed con­cern that some white par­ents came to the school armed with guns. He said he would de­ter­mine the fu­ture of the school prin­ci­pal on Mon­day.

Protest­ing par­ents told Sowe­tan that the racial seg­re­ga­tion in­ci­dent at the school was not iso­lated.

Some in­ci­dents, they said, dated as far back as 2008. One of the res­i­dents, Ka­belo Zondo, said at that time, black and white chil­dren were pre­vented from shar­ing a class­room.

/PHO­TOS / TIRO RAMATLHATSE

Sch­weizer-Reneke youth sing slo­gans dur­ing North West ed­u­ca­tion MEC Sello Le­hari’s visit to Sch­weizer-Reneke Laer­skool yes­ter­day.

Many of Sch­weizer-Reneke’s white com­mu­nity mem­bers car­ried guns to the protest by black res­i­dents after seg­re­ga­tion im­age at the school.

/ TIRO RAMATLHATSE

Sch­weizer-Reneke res­i­dents protest at a lo­cal pri­mary school yes­ter­day over seg­re­ga­tion.

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