OVERVIEW: A photo of happy children 'was used against me' - suspended Schweizer-Reneke teacher

2019-01-15 13:00

Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke teacher Elana Barkhuizen and trade union Solidarity have confirmed they will be taking legal action following Barkhuizen's suspension in the wake of a racism row at the school.

Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke school children.

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Last Updated at 02:01
15 Jan 13:15

Solidarity wraps up the briefing by saying Barkhuizen has been a teacher at the school for about two years, and she has been a teacher for 15 years in total.

Solidarity also implies that all the positive news about Barkhuizen, about her interactions with the parents and pupils at the school, both black and white, was not shared in the media, and people need to ask why.

With that, the briefing concludes.

15 Jan 13:10

Solidarity says that Barkhuizen has still not been provided with the reason for her suspension. "There's no way you can suspend a teacher just because she took a photo."

Solidarity starts wrapping up the briefing.

15 Jan 13:06

"We're focusing on the team photo, and ignoring the scoreboard," says Hermann. He says the culprit here is the department of education, who did not create bridges for children who came to the school only being able to speak Setswana.

15 Jan 13:01

According to Hermann, the children were separated according to their language, to help them ease into the first day. Hermann says they were later integrated.

15 Jan 12:59

Responding to a question on the seating arrangements, the Solidarity representative says they're "very cautious" to speak on behalf of the teacher whose class it was, and they can't address that question directly. 

"No, kids are not arranged according to race. There are no such arrangements. That was also not the case on that specific morning."

15 Jan 12:52

Solidarity says Barkhuizen was not a member of any trade union "before this". But she contacted them seeking assistance, and they obliged. She is now a "fully paid member" of Solidarity.

15 Jan 12:44

Solidarity representatives now fielding questions from the media.

15 Jan 12:44

15 Jan 12:41


15 Jan 12:39

Solidarity confirms they will pursue further legal action on behalf of Barkhuizen.

15 Jan 12:34

15 Jan 12:34

Solidarity head of legal services Anton van der Bijl says they will file an urgent application to have Barkhuizen's suspension lifted.

15 Jan 12:33

"Do not be sorry for me - I will not surrender. I will fight," Barkhuizen says as she concludes her statement.

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15 Jan 12:25

Barkhuizen continues, in Afrikaans.

15 Jan 12:23

15 Jan 12:23

An emotional Barkhuizen begins breaking down as she reads through her statement.

15 Jan 12:22

Barkhuizen now reads her statement, in Afrikaans. She starts by saying she is a teacher, and a mother. 

15 Jan 12:21

Hermann now introduces Barkhuizen, who will reading from a prepared statement that she will not deviate from, as the matter is still ongoing before the court. 

15 Jan 12:19

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15 Jan 12:18

Hermann now showing a series of photos to help illustrate Barkhuizen's good nature and the work that she had been doing with the children at the school.

15 Jan 12:16

Hermann says a "huge injustice" has been done unto Barkhuizen and her family. "We want to appeal to South Africa to help restore her dignity."

15 Jan 12:14

Hermann says Barkhuizen only took the picture, and she was not the teacher of the class that was allegedly segregated. Secondly, she isn't employed by the Department of Education, but by the school's governing body, and the wrong employer suspended her.

15 Jan 12:12

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15 Jan 12:11

Trade union Solidarity, speaking on behalf of the suspended teacher, says they will be taking action against North West Education MEC Sello Lehari, as well as the DA youth leader in the region.

15 Jan 12:08

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15 Jan 12:06


(By Adriaan Basson) 

3 lessons from that Schweizer-Reneke photo 

A photo showing four black Grade R children seated separately from about 20 white classmates in a North West farming town has laid bare some of the deep fault lines in our fledgling democracy.

If there is anything positive to take from this story, it should be that it gives us insight into some of the major issues still hampering our maturation into an equal, non-racial and non-discriminatory democracy.

It asks of each of us to up our game in achieving these goals set by our founding fathers. 

15 Jan 12:06


Schweizer Reneke teacher's suspension unlawful, says union 

The SA Teachers Union (SAOU) is demanding that the Schweizer-Reneke Primary School teacher at the centre of an alleged racism row be reinstated immediately, saying labour laws were ignored in the heat of the moment. 

"The suspension is nothing more than a transparent fig-leaf of political opportunism and abuse of power. We have already started processes to challenge the suspension," said SAOU chief executive Chris Klopper. 

The teacher was suspended as tempers flared over a photograph showing her class's white pupils together at a line of desks put together, and four black pupils at a desk cluster in a corner of the classroom.  

15 Jan 12:06


Teacher at centre of Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke storm leaves town 

It is being reported that the teacher who was suspended after a photo of Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke Grade R pupils, seemingly separated on the basis of their race, has left the town.

Netwerk24 is reporting that the woman and her family didn't feel safe after a storm erupted over the photograph.

Protesters – many wearing EFF regalia – made their way onto the premises on Thursday morning while North West Education MEC Sello Lehari was visiting the school. 

15 Jan 12:06


Schweizer-Reneke: Schooling disrupted in a divided town 

Racial tension remains high in the small farming town of Schweizer-Reneke in the North West.

Many black and white people remain divided after an image went viral on Wednesday, depicting black Grade R pupils seated apart from their white peers at Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke.

On Thursday, photos emerged, seemingly from the same set, and they showed the pupils sitting together.

However, before that, a group of protesters - mainly Economic Freedom Fighters members - converged on the school as North West Education MEC Sello Lehari conducted an inspection. 

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