Rustenburg Girls' Junior denies it rejected sponsored pupil on the basis of race

2018-11-15 15:05
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Rustenburg Girls' Junior School has denied allegations that it declined to accept a pupil, sponsored by an external bursary, on the basis of the child's race.

The school - situated in Cape Town's southern suburbs - made headlines earlier this month, after racism allegations surfaced when a black teacher, who was a former pupil, resigned after she claimed she felt undermined.

It is once again at the centre of controversy after emails were leaked to various media outlets, which show how the school apparently dissuaded an American family from sponsoring a 3-year-old girl from Khayelitsha to attend the school.

The Cape Times reported that the admissions officer told the local intermediary that the child may feel excluded and isolated.

"The article alleges that our school declined to accept a learner, sponsored by an external bursary, based on the child's race. This allegation is plainly not true," a letter sent by the School Governing Body (SGB) stated on Wednesday.

School highlighted obstacles

"In the case referred to by the Cape Times today, an American family approached us through a local intermediary in 2015 about sponsoring a three-year-old child of colour to attend our institution.

"The local intermediary had initially proposed that the American family consider a school in Wynberg, potentially closer to the learner's home."

The SGB claimed that the school had merely highlighted the obstacles that would face a beneficiary of an international bursary in this particular case.

"While any funding assistance is helpful, in a few instances, some international bursaries do not fully consider the child's needs pertaining to uniform, transport, food and other expenses faced by South African families," the SGB said.

The letter then cited another instance where a British family intended to sponsor a 4-year-old child of colour to attend the school and was subsequently accepted.

'What's sad is this is only one example'

"In hindsight, the wording or phrasing of our communication to the aforementioned potential sponsor did not accurately convey our intent, which is to promote the overall holistic well-being of all our learners, which stretches beyond the classroom," the SGB added.

"Rustenburg Junior School for Girls is proud to be able to work with parents and various stakeholders to offer bursaries to our school to children in need."

But Professor Nuraan Davids, spokesperson for Parents for Change – a group that has been very critical of the school's transformation policies – rejected this reasoning.

"Who is [the admissions officer] to make these statements? Where is the data to support these wild allegations? Children are a lot more intuitive than we think," she said.

"Of course, there are cliques at school, but if children say that they don't want to play with someone because they're poor, then that means they weren't raised well. This means that if you are poor, you cannot attend that school.

"What type of capitalist exclusionary practice is this? These comments are incredibly racist," she charged. "What's sad is that this is only one example."

Davids said that the school used the admissions policy as an excuse for the fact that only around 40% of pupils were of colour.

"The school likes to act like they are hamstrung by the admissions policy and that only children who live in the area can attend the school. This is a lie," she claimed.

She said there were other schools in Rondebosch that accepted children from outside the feeder area.

The headmistress Di Berry was not available for interviews and no further comment was immediately available.

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