#Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke ‘racism’ report released

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A picture showing black learners separated from white children in a class at Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke went viral on social media. The class teacher, who took the picture, has been suspended.
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Sibongile Mashaba

Tensions were high outside Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke in North West on Wednesday when provincial Education MEC Sello Lehari visited to receive a report on allegations of racism.

Schooling was disrupted last week after a picture showing white and black Grade R pupils sitting at different tables in one classroom was posted on social media.

Lehari said the team appointed to investigate allegations of racial segregation at the school had concluded its work, including looking at accusations that the principal was also a racist.

Education spokesperson Freddy Sepeng said on Wednesday that Lehari would brief the media on the matter in Mmabatho on Thursday.

He said the teacher, Elana Barkhuizen, who took the picture and sent it to a WhatsApp group, remained on suspension.

On Tuesday, Lehari said the team had been appointed to investigate traces of racism in all schools in the province.

Meanwhile in Gauteng, the school governing body and parents in Eldorado Park, south of Joburg, are not backing down on their decision not to allow seven black teachers back to the local secondary school.

They protested outside the school, opposing the Gauteng Department of Education’s decision to bring back the teachers. They said the department was imposing the teachers on them, knowing very well that they had caused problems at the school and made “false accusations of racism and intimidation”.

Commenting on the issue, Centre for Unity in Diversity director Zohra Dawood said the integration of school systems into a single, national department in 1994 was a high-risk enterprise and its effects continue to be felt.

“These strains manifest in debates around private versus public education (rich versus poor), the role and responsibilities of school governing bodies, role of home language on education outcomes, school leadership, and qualifications of teachers, among many others.

“These are vexing concerns and must be dealt with in a responsible way, underpinned by Section 29 of the Constitution.

““Resorting to conclusions that might inflame tensions do not serve any purpose and have the effect of harming the very constituency that we seek .

“The interests of children must not be held ransom by political or other interest,” Dawood said.

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