It’s language, not race, says North West school - but MEC doesn't buy it
Schweizer-Reneke teacher suspended after viral picture suggests pupils are being segregated
North West education MEC Sello Lehari was told the reason black pupils were separated from their white classmates at Laërskool Schweizer-Reneke was because they were struggling with the language barrier.
The explanation was given to Lehari during his visit to the school on Thursday amid protests after an image showed 18 white pupils occupying a single large desk in a classroom while the 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.
The school governing body said the picture of black and white pupils segregated “merely captured a moment and was not a true reflection of the school ethos”.
Another picture sent later showed the children sitting at the same desk.
On arrival at the school on Thursday, the MEC found parents of white pupils breaking in through the school fence and removing their children, while Schweizer-Reneke residents protested inside the schoolyard.
Lehari announced the immediate suspension of the teacher who taught the class. He said he decided to do so because the explanation given for separating the pupils did not sit well with him.
“I was told that 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, as their own children.
“We need teachers who are wise and responsible,” he said.
The MEC also expressed concern that some parents of white pupils came to the school with guns.
“I was surprised. I thought they were police officers. I immediately addressed them,” he said.
He said what happened in Schweizer-Reneke was heartbreaking.
The MEC said he would determine the future of the school principal on Monday.
Earlier in the day, protesting parents told Times Select 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.
“Now they combined all children, but still whites sit in separate row or tables while blacks were seated at their own rows. That is also racism,” he said.
Meanwhile, parents of white pupils said if the blacks were not happy they must take their children to township schools.
“If you are not happy here, take your child to another school. Nobody is forcing you,” one parent said.
They said Schweizer-Reneke had one white-dominated primary school and plenty of black dominated schools.
Lehari said he would investigate the claims made by the parents.