School re­moves teacher over pic

Pupils were al­legedly racially sep­a­rated in class

The Witness - - NEWS -

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.”

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