School reports ‘fake news’

2018-11-27 06:00

Rustenburg Girls’ Junior School in Rondebosch has denied reports that its principal, Di Berry, will be resigning at the end of this term and that the school rejected a “black” applicant, referring to the reports as fake news.

The school was responding to numerous reports that have recently been circulating in the media. These reports include the allegations that the school was racist towards Nolitha Mthembu, leading to her resignation, and that the school had previously refused admission to a learner from a disadvantaged background, and that it rejected a proposal to establish a scholarship for underprivileged learners.

According to Babongile Dlamini, the spokesperson for the school, it is possible that the misleading information is being intentionally spread. She says there have been meetings where relevant information was discussed but it is now being
miscommunicated.She says the resignation of the principal has nothing to do with the two burning issues around the school.

Clarifying the reports about the principal she says she is retiring and not resigning.

“Di Berry has reached retirement age and has decided to retire. She announced her retirement to the School Governing Body in December 2017. The scholarship proposal is an exciting new recommendation which is currently under review. For 2019, 44% of the Grade Rs accepted are of colour. All school-funded bursaries are awarded to previously disadvantaged learners of colour.”

Dlamini also says the context of the response to donors that wanted to fund the learner in question was misinterpreted.

“It has been alleged that our school declined to accept a learner, sponsored by an external bursary, based on the child’s race. This disappointing allegation is factually inaccurate. In the past decade, the bursaries funded by our school have been awarded to deserving learners of colour. Over the years, we have accepted many learners of all races, funded by external bursaries.”

In a newsletter to parents, Berry said: “I would like to acknowledge the scrutiny we have faced recently. For a myriad of reasons, the past few weeks have been one of the most thought-provoking periods for our school. Important discussions have taken place in our corridors, in many of your homes and in our wider community about the further diversification of our school and driving inclusivity to best serve the futures of our children. No teacher has ever been dismissed from this school because of their race. No child has been deprived of a bursary because they are black. Serving as your headmistress has been an incredible honour, my time for retirement has come.”

The education department has confirmed that the principal is retiring and processes to find her replacement are underway.Commenting on the reports about the rejection of the disadvantaged learner, Bronagh Hammond, department spokesperson, says: “The tone of the letter is concerning and could have been more welcoming.”

However, she maintains that the application was not rejected, the application was premature at the time. “No learner can apply and be accepted to Rustenburg Girls’ JS before the age of admission.”

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