The sleepy town of Schweizer-Reneke in the North West of South Africa is on tenterhooks after a picture showing black and white pupils sitting separately according to race in a Grade R classroom at the local primary school went viral.
The image shocked the country and senior government officials in the province descended on Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke demanding answers.
MEC of education and sports development Sello Lehari suspended the Grade R teacher who allegedly separated the pupils.
Lehari also established a task team to investigate the matter and other reports of prejudice at the school.
“I strongly condemn what had happened at the school as racism isn’t allowed in all our schools and should be weeded out. Transformation is important in all our schools,” said Lehari.
A teacher from another school in the town told News24 that racism would never end in the area, especially among white people.
Children ‘don’t mix at all’
“We don’t know democracy here. Whites think they are superior than everyone here. They own everything in this town including public schools. This primary school is an example of their behaviour and hatred toward black children,” said the teacher who spoke on condition of anonymity.
She said the primary school would never be transformed because white people “own” it and don’t want black children interacting with their children.
“We often visit the school to hold workshops and I have never seen black people playing with their white peers. Children play separately according to race. They don’t mix at all. We have always wanted to march against the school and have never done so.
“The department is aware of discrimination in the school and we want to thank the person who posted the picture on social media to alert the country and the world of what we are going through here daily,” she said.
The teacher also complained about the school’s language policy.
“They don’t want to offer English as a medium of instruction, yet it is a public school meant to teach all races.
“Why must our children suffer when there are resources on their doorstep?” she asked.
Waiting list for black people only
Concerned resident Lebogang Motlhabane claimed that black children were often denied access to the school and were placed on waiting lists when they applied for enrollment.
She claimed the white children did not have the same experience. “They don’t even apply for space.”
She said there were also reports of white pupils threatening black pupils.
“We hear complaints that black children are often threatened by white pupils not to touch them or else they tell their fathers who have guns to deal with them.”
She claimed that some parents carried guns on their waists when dropping their children off or fetching them from school.
Motlhabane said what hurt her most was that children were not born racist or hating people of another colour but that it was something they were taught while growing up.
“Nelson Mandela taught us to unite and love each other no matter our races. But here it is different, whites hate us more. They think we are still living in the era of apartheid which our fathers and mothers died fighting against,” said Motlhabane.
School to help staff with ‘integration’
The school’s governing body chairperson Jozeph du Plessis also released a statement saying the image was not a true reflection of the school ethos and that it was only 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”.
Earlier, parents had to fetch their little ones after protests intensified outside the school.
While the picture has sparked outrage others have pointed out that the it 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.