School removes teacher over pic
Pupils were allegedly racially separated in class
A TEACHER at Laerskool SchweizerReneke, the school caught up in a race controversy, was suspended after government officials visited the school yesterday.
Both eNCA and Open News reported that a high-level delegation of Education Department officials visited the school and asked the teacher to temporarily step aside.
Earlier, parents were contacted to take their children home after protests erupted outside the premises yesterday morning.
The North West Education MEC and other officials visited the school following public outrage over a photograph that surfaced online on the first day of school.
A picture showing four black pupils seated at a desk separate from a larger group of white pupils at another desk, went viral on social media.
The mother of a Grade R pupil was fuming, TimesLive reported.
The class teacher shared the photograph on the school’s WhatsApp group.
The mother reportedly received it from the class teacher at around 9 am as an update on the children’s day.
While other parents were thankful for the picture, the mother was irate when she discovered that her child and three other black pupils had seemingly been isolated.
The father of one of the black pupils said he was told that the children were “scared of the white kids”.
The father, who spoke to Open News anonymously, told the channel on Wednesday, after he had seen the photograph on social media, that he called the school to question the seating arrangement.
He said the teachers could not answer his questions. He later received a call from the principal and a school governing body member, who apologised for the incident.
He said he questioned what happened and whether the school promoted racial diversity.
“When they answered the question, they said to me kids were afraid of white people. I said: ‘No ... it’s not for the first time my kids [are] attending school or pre-school with white people’,” he told the broadcaster.
The father said he argued that as his child had attended a multi-racial school in Potchefstroom and been comfortable there, the response was strange to him.
The school’s governing body said the viral picture was not a true reflection of the school ethos.
“Schweizer-Reneke Primary School is proud of its integrated character. The school’s ethos is built on inclusivity as a reflection of the broader South African society,” governing body chairperson Jozeph du Plessis said in a statement. He said the photograph was a “reflection of a single moment in a classroom”.
“The governing body does not condone any distinction based on race. Learners from different backgrounds, including race, religion and language, are not merely accommodated but are fully integrated in all aspects of the school environment.” He said that the school would help staff in “aspects where it appears that integration is not taking place as it should”.
“The governing body will provide support and training where areas lacking in integration are identified. The governing body is committed to integration and to make a positive contribution to society. We will make sure that the necessary resources are available and that staff members have access to information and training.”
Du Plessis said the school had a proud history of pupils from different backgrounds.
Some parents pointed out that the picture was seemingly part of a series of pictures taken on the same day in the same class.
In the other pictures, children of different races can be seen interacting together, seated at other desks.
The school governing body did not address why the initial picture showed an apparent divide in the seating arrangement, nor whether the images were taken in the same sitting.
The North West Education Department said it would return to the school next week when it received the outcomes of its investigation.
“When they answered the question, they [school] said to me kids were afraid of white people ... it’s not for the first time my kids [are] attending school ... with white people.”