SCHWEIZER-RENEKE, January 10 – The principal of Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke must also be suspended pending a probe into a racial incident at the school, irate parents said on Thursday.
“The principal must be suspended,” they told North West Education member of the executive council (MEC) Sello Lehari.
Lehari was at the school to further investigate an alleged racial incident after a picture depicting four black children seated at a corner, separated from 18 white children in the Grade R class went viral in social media on Wednesday.
The teacher Elana Barkhuizen reportedly sent the picture to parents in a WhatsApp group showing them that the children were settled well on their first day at school.
Lehari announced that Barkhuizen was suspended with immediate effect.
“The teacher Elana Barkhuizen is suspended with immediate effect,” Lehari told community members after he had a closed meeting with the school management and other stakeholders.
He said Barkhuizen was suspended to allow for the investigation to proceed unhindered.
“The school explained that the black learners were seated at a separate table because they did not understand English and Afrikaans. We did not accept their explanation,” he said to rousing applause.
Community members painted a picture of deep-rooted racism at the school and asked him to suspend the principal as well because the principal was the accounting officer.
“The principal must go. You cannot suspend the teacher and leave the principal, the principal is the accounting officer,” said one parent.
The Young Communist League in the Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati said the MEC should not just suspend the teacher but, should also close the school temporarily for the affected learners to heal properly.
“Racism makes black learners feel inferior. It is a mechanism white used to force blacks to drop out of school. The racial act aimed to only have white learners at this school. What happened at this school affected learners, the school must be closed to allow the affected learners to heal properly,” said Pule Ramabodu, a district committee member.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) said it would fight racism at the school to a bitter end.
“It [racism] has been here for a long time, we came here in the morning to picket and send a clear message to the department of education that now is the time to transform the school,” said Thabo Sehloho.
“We also called for the suspension of the principal,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Forum 4 Service Delivery (F4SD) said it would ensure that the affected teacher was held accountable and the SA Council of Educators (Sace) to deregister her.
“It cannot be tolerated to see our future generation subject to such segregation. When confronted harder this school said that the sitting arrangement was as a result of black kids are not proficient in English. This reason is unacceptable. We as F4SD will ensure that the teacher who caused this debacle is held accountable and her SACE is revoked,” said party leader Mbahare Kekana.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) said it welcomed the suspension of the teacher.
“Following the meeting with the school principal, it transpired that the class teacher, Ms Elana Barkhuizen, was suspended with immediate effect pending an investigation. The DA welcomes this as well as the investigation that will follow. The DA strongly opposes segregation of young children on any grounds. As a country we need to recommit to Nelson Mandela’s ideals of reconciliation and the rejection of racism,” said Joe McGluwa North West provincial leader and premier candidate.
Investigators were expected to present their report next week.
At the school, the situation was tense in the morning while black parents chanted outside the locked gate, white parents held the gate to prevent black parents from breaking it. On the other side of the school, white parents some armed broke the fence and removed their children from the school.
The visibly shocked children were transported on vans.
One irate black parent said she felt her child was not safe at the school.
“Our children are not safe, I was shocked to see young children in that position. The incident happened at a class next to my child class. She was not affected but this segregation cannot continue. Our children cannot experience what our parents went through during apartheid,” she said.
-African News Agency (ANA).