Parents of students at a South African school were incensed when they saw a picture showing their Black children sitting segregated from white students in class.
The 4 and 5-year-old kindergarten students were attending their first day of school at Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke but were seated apartheid-style away from their white peers in a picture posted by one of the teachers, TimesLIVE, reported.
Display of racism in Grade 1 at Schweizer-Reneke Laerskool, North West Province, South Africa as black students in a small space are separated from white students sitting on proper tables and chairs. pic.twitter.com/nBW2ILVWZr
— Africa Facts Zone (@AfricaFactsZone) January 9, 2019
“This was meant to be an exciting day for me but it’s not. I am pissed off,” said one parent to the Times.
A teacher uploaded the photo to a WhatsApp group.
“All I saw was messages from the white parents saying ‘dankie, dankie’ [‘thank you, thank you’ on the WhatsApp group] but no one was saying anything about the separation of the learners,” the mother said.
There were at least 18 white students sitting together at a large table while the smaller group of Black students can be seen in the back of the class at a small table.
Several parents contacted the school’s principal to demand a change in the seating arrangement.
Activist and ANC campaign manager, Mcebo Dlamini, wrote a scathing response on Facebook:
“What is most provoking about this image is not that black kids are ostracized from white kids, that is common in our supposedly post-apartheid Africa. Rather what becomes painful is that there are black people who still insist that racism has ended and who think that blacks and whites can have peaceful relations that do not have undertones of racism,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
“This is impossible so long as white people have power, what therefore is needed is to change the existing power dynamics such that black people can have dignity. You can take your kids to the whitest schools in the country but so long as the black majority is poor, your kids will always be reminded that they are black and therefore inferior. Your money can’t buy you out of this anti-black world. It is only when the black collective is free that we can begin reclaiming our rightful place in our land of birth.”
According to iAfrica.com,the North West education department suspended a teacher while an investigation continues and governing body chairperson Jozeph du Plessis released a statement:
“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.”
He also defended the photo.
Du Plessis added that 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 also said that the school would help the staff with additional training.
“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.”